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What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth, which is celebrate June 19th, is the oldest national celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the US. It originated in Texas, were the liberation took place.
In 1862 President Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, which stated slavery in Confederate states was abolished and slaves would be freed. This went into effect in January 1863. By June 1865, many cities in Texas had yet to comply, so on June 19th, General Gordon Granger led Union troops into Galveston, Texas to announce the war was over and all slaves were free.
How is it celebrated?
Juneteenth is celebrated in a wide variety of ways. Common activities include rodeos, fishing, barbecues, and baseball. However each individual person decides to celebrate, one thing is consistent: education. Juneteenth celebrations always focus on education and self-improvement. Speakers are often brought in to speak to groups about African American heritage, arts, culture, and more. Large prayer services are also popular.
Juneteenth has been a state holiday in Texas since 1980. In 1997 congress officially recognized the holiday. This year, three states (Pennsylvania, Virginia, and New York) have declared the holiday a day of paid leave for state employees.
What can I do?
The most important part of the holiday is education. Spend the day researching African American history and culture. Pick up a book written by an African American author (here is a great list by Penguin Random House). Share what you’ve learned with friends and family. Donate to an important cause or African American organization.
What can I do locally?
Due to COVID 19, the African American Genealogical Society in Decatur will not be hosting their annual Juneteenth celebration. However, they plan to resume celebrations in the future beginning in 2021. Follow them on Facebook for information.
Because they can’t host their annual fundraiser and celebration, please consider donating to the African American Genealogical Society. You can do so on their website.
This year, 2020, Millikin University is hosting a virtual celebration you can join in or view later.