Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Originally dating back to 1865 in Galveston, Texas, the observance of June 19th as African American Emancipation Day spread to other states by Black Texans who moved to Louisiana and Oklahoma.
Juneteenth declined in popularity beginning in the early 1900s when classroom and textbook education in lieu of traditional home and family-taught practices “stifled the interest of the youth” in the lives of former slaves, since most of their activities were never documented in the history books nor discussed in the schools. The 1960s Civil Rights Movement, with its push for integration, also diminished interest in the event. In the 1970s African Americans’ renewed interest in celebrating their cultural heritage led to a revitalization of the holiday. The first state-sponsored Juneteenth celebration took place in 1980.
Today, 41 U.S. states recognize Juneteenth but the Lone Star State remains alone in granting it full state holiday status. Ronald V. Myers Sr., founder and chairman of the National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign, working toward the holiday’s 150th Anniversary in 2015, said “We’re looking for this being the year for Juneteenth to be recognized as a national holiday observance in America, like Flag Day and Patriot Day.”
Juneteenth is promoted not only as a commemoration of African-American freedom, but as an example of liberty and justice for all while encouraging respect for all cultures. Visit Juneteenth.com to learn more about this holiday’s history and events, as well as for ideas on how you can celebrate Juneteenth.