This Sunday, June 19- the United States commemorates the emancipation of the last enslaved African Americans.
This federal holiday is also an opportunity to celebrate the rich culture and the wonderful people that are part of the Black community.
But, What exactly is Juneteenth?
Short for “June Nineteenth”, this holiday commemorates the announcement of General Order No. 3, proclaiming freedom for the remaining enslaved people in Texas, the last state of the Confederacy with institutional slavery.
Getty Images- Notice of the Emancipation by the Union's commander to the citizens of Winchester, Virginia (January 5, 1863)
On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived with his Union soldiers to Galveston Texas, to announce the end of the civil war, and the end of slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation came two and a half years earlier on January 1 1863, but many of the enslavers that profited on the unpaid work refused to comply. They continued to hold their enslaved Black people captive after the announcement, prompting an intervention from the government. Even after the general order, some slave masters still managed to withhold the information from their enslaved families, effectively holding them through one more harvest season.
Texans were the first to celebrate Juneteenth, beginning in 1866, with community events such as parades, cookouts, prayer gatherings, historical and cultural readings, and musical performances. Over time, the different communities have developed their own traditions. Some purchased land specifically for Juneteenth celebrations, such as Emancipation Park in Houston, Texas.
Bettman Archive/ Getty images- Photograph of formerly enslaved people in an almshouse, circa 1900-
On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth officially became a Texas state holiday. Al Edwards, an African American state legislator, a freshman state representative, put forward the bill H.B. 1016, making Texas the first state to code into law this emancipation celebration. The successful passage of this bill marked the holiday as the first emancipation celebration granted official state recognition. Edwards then actively worked to spread the observance of Juneteenth.
In 1996 the first legislation to recognize “Juneteenth Independence Day”, was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, sponsored by Barbara-Rose Collins (D-MI). In 1997, Congress recognized the day through Senate Joint Resolution 11 and House Joint Resolution 56. In 2013 the U.S. Senate passed Senate Resolution 175, acknowledging Lula Briggs Galloway (late president of the National Association of Juneteenth Lineage) who worked to bring national recognition to Juneteenth, and the continued leadership of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation.
By 2002, eight states officially recognized Juneteenth. A few years later, by 2006, fifteen states had recognized Juneteenth as a holiday. By 2008, almost half of U.S. states observed the holiday as a ceremonial observance. In total, 47 of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia recognized Juneteenth as either a state holiday or ceremonial holiday, a day of observance. The three states that did not recognize Juneteenth officially were Hawaii, North Dakota and South Dakota.
In 2016, former teacher and lifelong activist Opal Lee walked 1,400 miles from her home in Fort Worth, Texas, to Washington, D.C., to get Juneteenth recognized as a national holiday. She was 89 years old at the time. She is considered the ‘Grandmother of Juneteenth’ and is a 2022 Nobel Peace Prize nominee. She is planning to walk 2.5 miles more on Saturday June 18- to commemorate the two and a half years that took for the news of freedom to reach the people in Texas. If you'd like to join her remotely, you can register here. Donations you make for this activity support the construction of the National Juneteenth Museum and help support Ms. Opal’s mission to educate the country about our new national holiday and its significance.
Juneteenth has become a symbolic date representing African-American freedom. As families emigrated from Texas to other parts of the United States, they carried Juneteenth celebrations with them. Our Black community also participates in the celebration, generally with multiple cultural events, gatherings and lectures to educate the public on the significance of this date.
Why is it so important?
For more information on this important holiday, its history and symbols go here.
Juneteenth Celebrations in the FM area
FAITH4HOPE Freedom Celebration
1321 19th Ave N- Fargo, ND 58102
Saturday, June 18
12:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Free for everyone.
For more information, call (701) 793-6001
or visit their Website
This daylong, FREE community-led celebration features music, dance, and other performances, a host of youth and family activities, historical and cultural booths, and vendors offering an array of food and merchandise.
In the spirit of Juneteenth, this year, the day is dedicated to creating and celebrating individuals, businesses, and institutions for Black people, accomplishments, and culture.
Fargo Juneteenth 3rd Annual Celebration
NDSU RENAISSANCE HALL
650 Northern Pacific Ave- Fargo, ND
Sunday, June 19
12:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Free for everyone.
For more information, visit their event here.
Participants will have the opportunity to engage in education, entertainment, virtual reality, art, and volunteerism. This Cultural event is free and open to all members of the community.
This year’s theme is Sankofa: Return and Get It: To make progress toward the future, we must return to and claim our past. It is understanding who we were that will free us to embrace who we now are.