On June 17th 2021, President Joe Biden declared June 19th a Federal Holiday, the first day to receive this recognition since 1983. This new holiday, called Juneteenth, marks a pivotol moment in United States history, one that commemorates the end of slavery. This article details the history of Juneteenth and ways it is celebrated across the United States.
In 1861, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation declaring that “all enslaved people in the states currently engaged in rebellion against the Union shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free”. However, this Proclamation hardly impacted many enslaved people, as only a few Union troops were able to enforce the new Executive Order. Two years later on June 19, 1865, Union Army general Gordon Granger proclaimed the end of the Civil War and the liberation of enslaved African-Americans in Galveston, Texas via General Order No. 3. When more troops led by General Granger arrived along with the surrender of General Lee, this bolstered force was able defeat the resistance and liberate the enslaved. Each year, the United States will now mark the anniversary of this momentous order on June 19th, called Juneteenth.
Juneteenth Festivities and Celebrations
Also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, or America’s second Independence Day, Juneteenth is celebrated in every state across the United States. There are nuances to the day, simultaneously acknowledging the dark history of the United States while celebrating the contributions of black Americans to American society. There is also a strong element of education, with the work of prominent black artists and thinkers such as Ralph Ellison and Maya Angelou. Other festive celebrations include parades, parties, picnics, and music festivals in honor of freedom and collective diversity. Check your nearest town to find out what Juneteenth celebrations are happening in your community.
Source: A. Ricketts for Visit Philadelphia
Juneteenth and Food Tourism
In Tourism Review International, Anne Donovan and Karen DeBres claim Barbecue is the centerpiece of most Juneteenth celebrations, as the food is closely linked with African-American origins. The original barbecuing method was to slowly roast the seasoned pork in a pit dug into the ground, also called “pit-barbecue”. The introduction of barbecuing culinary methods later got extended and blended in the American culture with the migration of the African-American population to different states. The preference of taste for barbecue cuisines also have developed locally over time. Consequently, food and barbecue has become one of the major attractions of Juneteenth. Aside from participating in the parade and getting to know the history through the interaction with the local community, the tourists are also often attracted by the delicious barbecuing food presented in the Juneteenth celebrations.
Juneteenth Today and Further Meanings
Following the Black Lives Matter (BLM) – a political and social movement protesting against incidents of police brutality and racial violence targeting black people, the meaning of Juneteenth has become increasingly profound and culturally significant. The movement began in 2013 and garnered increasing attention after the murder of George Floyd by the police on May 25, 2020. The Juneteenth parade in 2020 was fueled by the momentum of the protest calling for justice and racial equality. The recognition of Juneteenth seems to be shifting from a historical celebration to a deeper legacy reflection of slavery and racial discrimination in American life.
Source: Leslie Cross on Unsplash
This year, despite the challenges created by COVID-19, there are still physical events and festivities taking place in many states to celebrate, attract domestic tourists around the country to take part in the festivities. The adaptation of celebrations not only empowers Americans to commemorate the meaningful day, but also for people around the globe to participate and understand the historical day and how we can achieve equality.
Get outside today and join your nearest Juneteenth celebration, showing up as an ally committed to rectifying the country’s dark history of systemic oppression. It is crucial for Americans to learn from our mistakes and strive for a more just society. Showing solidarity is an important first step.