Juneteenth 2023 - History, significance, how to celebrate, and quotes & wishes

Jun 17, 2023 08:49 PM IST

Juneteenth: A day to commemorate the end of slavery in the US. Learn its history, significance, and how it is celebrated across the nation.

On June 19th, the United States commemorates Juneteenth, a significant day marking the end of slavery. With a rich history rooted in Black communities, Juneteenth has gained newfound national and cultural prominence amid heightened awareness of racial injustices and increased polarization.

Members of the City of Galveston government unveil new signage that will be installed on the highway entering the Island to recognize its place as the birthplace of Juneteenth on Friday, June 16, 2023 in Galveston, Texas. (Elizabeth Conley/Houston Chronicle via AP)(AP)
Members of the City of Galveston government unveil new signage that will be installed on the highway entering the Island to recognize its place as the birthplace of Juneteenth on Friday, June 16, 2023 in Galveston, Texas. (Elizabeth Conley/Houston Chronicle via AP)(AP)

What is Juneteenth and its history?

For those new to the significance of Juneteenth, questions arise about the "right" way to celebrate. Understanding its historical context is essential. Juneteenth originated from the combination of "June" and "nineteenth," symbolizing the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas learned of their freedom, two years after President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and following the Civil War. This historic milestone has been sacred to Black communities for over 150 years, signifying resilience and hope.

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The Emancipation Proclamation, issued in 1863, freed enslaved individuals in Confederate states but did not immediately end slavery in places like Texas under Confederate control. The arrival of Union troops in Galveston on June 19, 1865, led by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger brought the long-awaited news of freedom to over 250,000 enslaved Black people in the state.

This momentous announcement sparked jubilation and immense joy within the Black community. Historian C.R. Gibbs described it as an indescribable moment of happiness. Today, Juneteenth is known by various names such as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, and Black Independence Day, signifying its enduring importance.

How is Juneteenth celebrated?

Traditionally, Texas was the epicenter of Juneteenth celebrations, but its traditions have spread nationwide in recent years. Initially, these celebrations aimed to educate newly freed enslaved people about their voting rights. The first Juneteenth anniversary in 1866 witnessed a grand procession in Galveston, attended by hundreds of men, women, and children. In Houston, community leaders purchased land to establish Emancipation Park, a revered site for commemorations.

The elevation of Juneteenth to a federal holiday occurred in 2021, as President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act. This landmark decision came amidst nationwide protests for racial justice following the tragic killing of George Floyd. As a federal and bank holiday, Juneteenth entails the closure of nonessential federal offices, including post offices, and may involve modified hours for commercial banks. Moreover, it serves as a day off in the U.S. stock market.

Juneteenth wishes and quotes:

"Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory or an acceptance of the way things are. It's a celebration of progress. It's an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, change is possible—and there is still so much work to do." —Barack Obama

"You must never, ever give out. We must keep the faith because we are one people. We are brothers and sisters. We all live in the same house: The American house." —John Lewis

"Hold those things that tell your history and protect them. During slavery, who was able to read or write or keep anything? The ability to have somebody to tell your story to is so important. It says: 'I was here. I may be sold tomorrow. But you know I was here.'" —Maya Angelou

"Juneteenth may mark just one moment in the struggle for emancipation, but the holiday gives us an occasion to reflect on the profound contributions of enslaved Black Americans to the cause of human freedom." —Jamelle Bouie

"Every Black person you meet is a miracle…We are valuable because of our humanity and declared valuable because our ancestors declared our worth when they fought for us to live." —Brittany Packnett

"We Black folk, our history, and our present being are a mirror of all the manifold experiences of America…If we Black folk perish, America will perish." —Richard Wright

"June 19th reminds me that I am the force of power to change this world and to follow in the footsteps of my ancestors to work towards liberation." —Mariah Cooley

"Understanding history is one of many ways to break the cycle. Lift up/amplify Black voices. Support Black-owned businesses. Reach back. Mentor." —Chadwick Boseman

"What historical narrative are we willing to weave in order to remind people not only that we were here enduring the trials but that we stared the fang-toothed wolves of injustice in the face and said, 'No more.'" —Travon Free

"Ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year. Ours is not the struggle of one judicial appointment or presidential term. Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part." — John Lewis

"Juneteenth is important to me because till this day black people are still subject to racial injustice on a global scale, and are still victims of racial abuse regardless of where they are from. Juneteenth allows us to remember how far black people have progressed since and it is a reminder of the strength we have within us." —Bethel Kyeza

Juneteenth's significance goes beyond mere celebration; it symbolizes the triumph of resilience, the pursuit of equality, and the enduring struggle against systemic injustice. As communities across the nation come together to honor this historic milestone, Juneteenth serves as a reminder of the progress made and the work that remains to build a more inclusive and equitable society.

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