Juneteenth 2022: The History of the Holiday and How to Celebrate Today

Juneteenth is today, and 2022 marks the second year it has been an official federal holiday. President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act last year, making it the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. was added in 1983.

A portmanteau of the date on which it is celebrated, Juneteenth commemorates the freedom of enslaved blacks in the USA. It is also known as Freedom Day or Jubilee Day.

“The emancipation of enslaved American blacks did not mark the end of America’s work to fulfill the promise of equality; just marked the beginning,” Biden said shortly before signing the June 1 holiday. “To honor the true meaning of Juneteenth, we have to keep moving towards that promise because we’re not there yet.”

Juneteenth’s observation dates back to 1865, but the holiday gained significant national attention in 2020 following the death of George FloydBreonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and others provoked Black Lives Matter Protests against police brutality and systematic violence against black Americans.

Here’s what to know about Juneteenth, including the history of the day, how and when it’s observed, how you can celebrate it, and which states have made it a holiday.

What does it mean to make Juneteenth a federal holiday?

Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act in 2021, making it a federal holiday. This means it is established by law like other holidays, including Labor Day, Memorial Day and New Year’s Day. Juneteenth is the 11th federal holiday in the US.

As with other federal holidays, banks, schools and government businesses (such as the post office) are expected to be closed. Because June 1st falls on a Sunday this year, many workers in states that recognize the holiday will have Monday, June 20th off, although some observe it on Friday, June 17th.

How did Juneteenth come to symbolize the end of black slavery?

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and read a federal order abolishing the state’s institution of slavery:

“The people of Texas are informed that, according to a proclamation by the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and property rights between former masters and slaves, and the connection hitherto between them becomes that between the employer and the contracted work.

The moment was significant. Texas was the last of the Confederate states in which enslavement continued, despite President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery in 1863 and despite the end of the Civil War on April 9, 1865. Texas was the most Confederacy and Union forces took until June to reach Texas in sufficient numbers to announce and enforce the federal order that ended slavery there. (The 13th Amendment, which added the abolition of slavery to the Constitution, was passed by Congress in January 1865, but was not ratified and adopted until December 1865.)

Since June 19, 1865, Americans have observed and celebrated Juneteenth as Emancipation Day, a day of freedom. In 1980, Texas began marking Juneteenth as an official state holiday, the first state to do so. Now, almost every state celebrates or observes Juneteenth to some degree.

How is Juneteenth observed?

Some traditional ways to celebrate Juneteenth that you can still see today are rodeos, fishing, barbecue and baseball, according to the Juneteenth website. A prayer service, speaker series, reading of the Emancipation Proclamation and dances are among other early June celebrations, according to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

How can I celebrate Juneteenth in 2022?

Order food at a black-owned restaurant: Support black restaurateurs in your community by ordering food on June 1st and beyond – here they are eight ways to find black-owned restaurants where you live. Yelp and Uber Eats can help you find these restaurants in their apps. You can also visit Hungry for the Culture to find black-owned restaurants in most major US cities.

Black lives matter. Support the cause in these eight ways: From making donations to getting more involved in your local community, here are real ideas you can participate in to support the Black Lives Matter movement and anti-racism, even from your living room.

Educate yourself and reflect: While slavery ended in 1865, racism persists in countless institutions. Use June 19 as a day to reflect on critical issues that perpetuate discrimination against black people in the United States and around the world. Spend the day reading about the history of Juneteenth, including how black families felt after being emancipated. Watch the 13th documentary on Netflix or interact with others movies, shows, books and podcasts that can help reveal current real-world problems.

Watch June 1st events online: Tune in virtually to the Juneteenth music festival or celebrations online and find a list of local events where you live.

Put a sign in your front yard: Raise awareness and show your support for Juneteenth by decorating a sign for their front yard or door. This is a great way to help educate younger kids in your neighborhood who may not know about the holiday.

Celebrate with a barbecue or family meal: Gather your family to celebrate freedom. Since the pandemic is still a serious concern, be sure to follow your state’s guidelines for internal group meetings (here are guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). If you are celebrating indoors, we recommend opening the windows for ventilation.

Juneteenth only happens once a year, but there are more ways to help your community throughout the year – for example, supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

In which states is Juneteenth a paid holiday?

While many states celebrate Juneteenth as a holiday, these are the states that observe it as a paid holiday. Note that many cities in the unlisted states also recognize it as a paid holiday.

  • illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Washington

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