City Life + Arts Nation News

The history, legacy behind Juneteenth

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

Juneteenth is a holiday celebrated annually on June 19 and marks the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States.

It was originally celebrated in Galveston, Texas in 1866, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which had declared all enslaved people in Confederate territory free as of January 1, 1863.

Union Major General Gordon Granger made the announcement but there was a delay in remote areas like Texas, where enforcement was minimal and slavery persisted. 

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free,” General Granger’s order stated. 

The color red became significant with the recognition of the federal holiday as it symbolized the bloodshed and sacrifices of African Americans in the United States. 

The first official Juneteenth celebration included prayer meetings and singing of spirituals. People wore new clothes symbolizing the newfound freedom, according to

Juneteenth today

Today, after almost a century and a half, people across the United States continue to celebrate this federal holiday. 

It was announced as a federal holiday after President Joe Biden signed legislation in 2021, after nationwide protests that were followed by the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor

The festival usually witnesses cookouts and barbecues. During the initial days, the outdoors allowed reunions among formerly enslaved families. 

These gatherings became revolutionary because African Americans were now free of restrictive measures, known as “Black Codes,” controlling whether liberated enslaved people could vote, buy property, gather for worship and other aspects of daily life.

The United States celebrates the holiday across different cities where some celebrations take place among small groups and families with food and drinks, while others in cities like Washington hold events on a larger scale with parades. 

Marking this as the 159th year anniversary of Juneeteenth, Houston will host a Juneteenth Big Black Beach Day Celebration at Sunny Beach which is free of cost and Juneteenth At Star Sailor. You can find more events in Houston here. Cities like Galveston will celebrate the holiday with a reenactment march, parade and festival. 

Items like barbecued ribs or other red meat, watermelon and red velvet cake may be incorporated into restaurant menus since the color red is prominently used during Juneteenth. Drinks like fruit punch and red Kool-Aid may make an appearance at the table, too.

Don’t forget to wish each other “Happy Juneteenth” or “Happy Teenth!”

[email protected]

Leave a Comment