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Celebrating Juneteenth - the history behind the holiday

This year Be The Match is hosting its first organization-wide Juneteenth celebration.

Juneteenth: A brief history

  • Juneteenth—a combination of the words “June” and “19th—is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.
  • Juneteenth is also known as Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, Freedom Day and Cel-Liberation Day.
  • On June 19, 1865: Major General Gordon Granger, landed in Galveston, Texas with news the Civil War was over and all enslaved people were, therefore, free.
  • General Granger’s news came more than two years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

Juneteenth: A pause in celebrations

  • In the early 20th century, Juneteenth celebrations declined with the advent of Jim Crow laws.
  • It was hard to celebrate freedom when black people were still being oppressed.
  • After WWII, there was an increase in civil rights activities in the African American community which sparked the civil rights movement.
  • Juneteenth celebrations started back up in 1968 with the end of the civil rights movement. One coincided with the “Poor People’s March” in Washington, D.C.

Juneteenth: Today

  • The first state to officially recognize Juneteenth as a holiday was Texas in 1980.
  • As of 2019, 46 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation to officially recognize Juneteenth. It is not yet a Federal Holiday.
  • Juneteenth commemorations vary across the United States. Many feature music, barbecues, prayer services and other activities.
  • Red drinks/Strawberry pop are traditionally served at celebrations to tie back to West Africa and its symbolism for this American celebration.
  • In 1997, Ben Haith created a Juneteenth flag to be raised on the holiday to the black people’s anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing."
    • Lift Every Voice and Sing” was written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson in 1900 and set to music by his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, in 1905.