This year marks the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the abolition of slavery in Texas and more generally the emancipation of African American slaves throughout the Confederate South.
Author Carole Boston Weatherford, author of Juneteenth Jamboree, wanted to celebrate this “emancipation celebration that is said to have begun on June 19, 1865, when Union Army soldiers arrived in Texas and informed slaves that they were free.”
According to Weatherford’s author note, the news of emancipation took two years, six months, and nineteen days to reach Texas after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
Today, African Americans come together all around the country to celebrate Juneteenth with traditions from the early days, including parades, picnics, music, speeches, crafts, and African dance. In 1980, June 19 was made a legal holiday in Texas.
Think about Juneteenth as a companion holiday to the Fourth of July. While Independence Day celebrates freedom for our country, it is important to remember that not all people in America were free at this country’s birth. As Dr. Charles Taylor writes:
Juneteenth has come to symbolize for many African-Americans what the fourth of July symbolizes for all Americans — freedom. It serves as a historical milestone reminding Americans of the triumph of the human spirit over the cruelty of slavery. It honors those African-Americans ancestors who survived the inhumane institution of bondage, as well as demonstrating pride in the marvelous legacy of resistance and perseverance they left us.
150 years later (better late then never?), several representatives will push for legislation to make Juneteenth Independence Day a National Day of Observance in America. Currently, 43 states recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday.