Juneteenth (short for June Nineteenth) is a holiday that marks the end of slavery in the United States and is celebrated each year across the country. In 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation freed enslaved Black Americans of the Confederate States. However, it took a long time for word to travel across the country and slavery continued in many places as a result. As states received the word, the residing slaves were freed. Texas, the most western state of the Confederacy, was the last state to receive word. On June 19th, 1865, troops marched into Galveston, Texas and announced that slaves were free.
After the slaves in Texas finally received word of their freedom two years after it was declared nationally illegal, celebrations broke out and the day affectionately became known as Juneteenth. The following year, Texans organized a celebration called “Jubilee Day,” on June 19th, and continued to celebrate this day every year thereafter. Over the years, the celebration spread to every state in the country. Some commemorate this day by making an annual pilgrimage to Galveston, Texas, where there are many activities and events held to honor the holiday.
Juneteenth is growing in popularity across the country as a sacred day that recognizes the triumph over contradictions between slavery and democracy. On this day, observers soberly embrace the reverence and appreciation for the liberation of slaves while celebrating Black culture. People celebrate through family gatherings, BBQs, prayer services, festivals, and many other activities. As America celebrates her independence annually on July 4th, Juneteenth is also an Independence Day that many Black Americans feel a special connection to. The day is considered symbolic and meaningful in a different way, given that perhaps “everyone is not free unless we are all free.”
Be sure to check out Chicago’s finest Juneteenth Festival!