By Shelby Kretz
You've certainly heard a lot about Juneteenth in the past few years, but do you know the history and meaning behind this holiday?
Juneteenth is an important holiday celebrating the freedom of enslaved African Americans in the United States. Everyone should understand the rich history and important meaning behind this holiday!
The Origins of Juneteenth
The story of Juneteenth dates back to June 19, 1865, when the news that the Civil War had ended and enslaved people were now free finally reached enslaved people in Galveston, Texas.
It is important to note that President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, two and a half years earlier. However, in some parts of the Confederacy, particularly Texas, the institution of slavery persisted despite the Proclamation.
Celebrating Freedom and Progress
Upon learning of their newfound freedom, African Americans in Texas and other parts of the country immediately embraced this momentous occasion. The first Juneteenth celebrations were grassroots events organized by freed people, featuring religious gatherings, picnics, and various communal activities. These festivities symbolized a shared sense of joy, resilience, and hope for a better future.
Over time, Juneteenth celebrations spread to other states as African Americans migrated across the country, taking their cultural traditions and historical significance with them. The holiday became an occasion to honor Black heritage and reflect on the struggles endured.
The Evolution and Recognition of Juneteenth
Juneteenth celebrations continued throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, their recognition and observance faced challenges during the Jim Crow era. Despite these obstacles, Juneteenth remained an essential part of cultural identity for African American communities.
In recent decades, Juneteenth has experienced a resurgence, with increased awareness and calls for its official recognition. Many states began to officially recognize Juneteenth as a holiday. On June 19, 2021, after years of advocacy, Juneteenth became a federal holiday in the United States.
Juneteenth is an important part of the ongoing struggle for racial equality and justice. While it serves as a commemoration of the end of chattel slavery, it also serves as a reminder of the work that still needs to be done to dismantle systemic racism.
Want to learn even more about Juneteenth? Check out this video. Depending on the age and background knowledge of your little ones, you may want to watch it with them as well (but we recommend watching it on your own first).
Want to teach your littles ones more about Juneteenth? Here are some books to read together:
- The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States by Alliah L. Agostini
- Juneteenth for Maize by Floyd Cooper
- Opal Lee And What It Means to Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth by Alice Faye Duncan
Hopefully this has been helpful for you to learn more about Juneteenth!
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