Juneteenth Celebrates the History of Freedom in America

By: Kathryn Lively

Throughout the year our nation sets aside time for people to reflect upon our history, and to celebrate the momentous events and influential people who helped shape America into what it is today – the land of the free, and a prosperous world power. February is often acknowledged as Black History Month, while March for women’s history. June, however, extends the celebration for African-Americans as Juneteenth is observed.

It may sound like a made-up number, but Juneteenth actually dates as far back at the mid-nineteenth century, and rightfully so. Each year around the United States, Juneteenth celebrations mark the anniversary of the end of slavery in America – the emancipation of all African peoples brought to this growing country for labor and servitude. Normally celebrated on June 19th, Juneteenth festivities around the US – particularly the southern states – may last as long as week or even the whole month. Fourteen states have officially recognized Juneteenth as an official state holiday.

“Juneteenth” gets its name from a combination of the words “June” and “nineteenth,” as derived from that historical date in 1865. While the Emancipation Proclamation had been put into effect by President Lincoln two years prior, the Civil War still raged through the country, and the Rebel states which had seceded refused to acknowledge it. It took a bloody defeat by Union troops to secure the freedoms of those of African descent, and on the Juneteenth date in 1865, Union General Gordon Granger personally saw to the release of slaves in Galveston Island in Texas. The knowledge that they were finally free sent the now-former slaves into a frenzy of jubilation, and from this joy was born the first Juneteenth.

Since that time, Juneteenth has grown into an annual commemoration of that day, culminating in activities to be enjoyed by all Americans. One might expect to enjoy a variety of ethnic foods at a Juneteenth festival, along with musical acts, games, and reenactments. Where Juneteenth is recognized as a state holiday, celebrations might be sponsored by various cities, while other venues around the United States may hold smaller festivals.

Juneteenth, however, is more than an opportunity to celebrate African-American culture. It is also a time of reflection and remembrance. Area churches and libraries may use this time to offer seminars and films about this dark period in our nation’s history, and pay tribute to those who did not live to see the first Juneteenth. Religious services may be held to honor the pioneers who never gave up hope for freedom, and panel discussions may invite all to discuss ways to support African-American fellowship and business. Juneteenth offers the opportunity to connect and strengthen the spirit.

If you are interested in participating in a Juneteenth event in your area, or perhaps organizing one if one has yet to happen, an quick Internet search on “Juneteenth” will lead to a wealth of information on Juneteenth traditions, possible topics for educational seminars, and recipes to serve. As always, remember those you celebrate, and seek to create a positive celebration for future generations.

Author Resource:-> Kathryn Lively is The Write SEO, a freelance travel writer for Stafford County Tourism, where Juneteenth is celebrated in Rappahannock.

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