Juneteenth is growing in recognition as a holiday since becoming a national holiday. It is helpful for companies to understand the historical and cultural context of Juneteenth. Here are some facts that can help.
Juneteenth, officially signed into law as a federal holiday by President Biden in 2021, is the oldest celebration of the end of slavery in the United States. It marks the day that Major General Granger of the Union Army read the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston, TX, on June 19, 1865, informing slaves that they were freed. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863, legally freeing the slaves, slaveowners in Texas did not grant them their freedom. For over 2 ½ years, 250,000 slaves in Texas had been free, but they just didn’t know it.
- The name, Juneteenth, comes from a combination of June and nineteenth.
- Juneteenth is also known as “Jubilee Day,” “Freedom Day,” “Emancipation Day,” and “Juneteenth Independence Day.”
- It is celebrated through gatherings of family and friends, parades, festivals, singing, dancing, and feasting. Celebrations vary throughout the country. In the South, celebrations include strawberry soda, barbecue, and oral histories and readings. In the southwest, rodeos are common. Some states serve a Marcus Garvey salad (named after a Black nationalist) of red, green, and black beans. Near the coast, you may find Juneteenth celebrated with a seafood boil or gumbo.
- The oldest Juneteenth celebration will be 150 years old this June, held in Emancipation Park in Houston. The land for the 10-acre park was purchased in 1872 specifically to celebrate Juneteenth by former slaves, Richard Allen, Richard Brock, Jack Yates, and Elias Dibble.
- Juneteenth celebrations declined during the early 20th century due to Jim Crow laws and economic pressures. The Civil Rights movement re-energized interest in celebrating Juneteenth. MLK Jr’s Poor People’s March was planned to coincide with Juneteenth, reinvigorating interest and spreading the holiday throughout the South.
- Texas was the first state to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday in 1980. All 50 states and the District of Columbia recognize it as a holiday or observance, with at least 22 granting it paid/legal holiday status.
- The signing of Juneteenth into law as a national federal holiday marks the first national federal holiday signed into law since Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 1983.
- Some companies have honored Juneteenth by having a moment of silence, giving a paid day off, giving a paid day for volunteering, bringing in guest speakers, and recognizing the holiday in their pay structures.
- The Juneteenth holiday has its own flag. Designed by L.J. Graf, it is full of meaning. The colors red, white, and blue symbolize that the freed slaves were Americans. The star in the middle is emblematic of Texas, while the expanding star surrounding it symbolizes freedom.
- Red is a common color associated with Juneteenth. Some link it to the blood shed by enslaved people who fought for their freedom. Red is a symbol of unity and strength in many African tribes. This is why you are likely to find strawberry soda or other red drinks, strawberry pie, or red beans and rice on the menu for many celebrations.