What Is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day, is a holiday celebrated on the 19th of June to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in the US. The holiday was first celebrated in Texas, where on June 19th, 1865, (in the aftermath of the Civil War) slaves were declared free under the terms of the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation.

Union soldiers, led by Major Gen. Gordon Granger, landed in the city with news that the Civil War had ended and slaves were now free. The announcement came two-and-a-half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of Jan. 1, 1863, that technically freed slaves. However, since that proclamation was made during the Civil War, it was ignored by Confederate states, and it wasn’t until the end of the war that the Executive Order was enforced in the South.

Granger delivered the news himself, reading General Order Number 3: “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

The day’s name is a combination of “June” and “nineteenth” in honor of the date of Granger’s announcement and first appeared around 1903.

Juneteenth is often celebrated by coming together at family reunions, gatherings and barbecues.  The traditional drink at these commemorative events is Strawberry Soda, and the dessert of Strawberry Pie. Other red foods such as red rice (rice with tomatoes), watermelon and red velvet cake are also popular as the red foods commemorate the blood that was spilled during the days of slavery.

Churches also join in Juneteenth celebration with picnics and special services, many of which feature traditional African American music and hymns.

 

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