Juneteenth celebrations throughout the years
June 8, 2021 / By Georgia Whitney, Conference Commission on Religion & Race
Juneteenth marks our country’s second independence Day. Although it has long been celebrated in the African American community, this monumental event remains largely unknown to most Americans. Combining the words "June" and "nineteenth," it began as a local celebration in Texas and has since evolved into a worldwide celebration of freedom. Also known as "Jubilee Day," "Freedom Day," "Cel-Liberation Day," "Second Independence Day," and "Emancipation Day," Juneteenth is feted in events large and small. You'll see backyard barbeques, street fairs, Miss Juneteenth contests, historical reenactments, pageants, parades, rodeos, dancing, and festivals. Celebrations usually include lectures and exhibitions on Black culture.
At any of these venues, you’re likely to see a lot of the color red. From the strawberry soda to red velvet cake to all manner of clothing, red defines many Juneteenth celebrations. The color commemorates both the blood of the millions of enslaved people who suffered under institutionalized brutality, as well as the West African communities their ancestors were ripped away from, where red often symbolizes strength.
Chiefly, the celebration of Juneteenth grew from the profound experiences that day when many learned of their freedom. From that freedom, it grew out of the surmounting challenges that lay ahead. And it continues to grow from the perseverance required and the dignity to overcome adversity and achieve fulfillment.
Even so, for people who had spent their whole lives as slaves just like their ancestors before them, the news of freedom made this an unimpeachably historic day.
The popularity of Juneteenth celebrations has waxed and waned since 1865, but today, Juneteenth is only growing in size and it’s starting to get recognized in every corner of the world. It’s recently spread faster than ever through social media and TV, as popular shows like "Black-ish" and "Atlanta" have aired special Juneteenth-themed episodes.
Plus, whole organizations have cropped up just to spread word of the holiday, sharing Juneteenth facts and practices with new audiences and promoting celebrations wherever they take place. Groups like the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation have petitioned to make June 19 a national holiday.
In 2018, the Senate passed a resolution to recognize “Juneteenth Independence Day” as a national holiday. However, the resolution has yet to be approved by the House. Still, Juneteenth is closer than ever to becoming a federal holiday.
Around the world, annual Juneteenth celebrations are held in France, Taiwan, Ghana, Afghanistan, and most every corner of the world. Back at home, many are hoping that the holiday can get the federal recognition it deserves.
Our prayer is that the end of slavery becomes a holiday for all Americans.