Juneteenth is a holiday celebrating Black culture and liberation, but why the date June 19th? While it’s related to the end of slavery in the United States, it’s not the date that slavery formally ended.
Even though president Abraham Lincoln declared an end to slavery in the Emancipation Proclamation on the very first day of 1863, some parts of the country took advantage of how slow news traveled in those days, and continued the practice of enslaving Black Americans for months. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865 that enslaved people in Galveston, Texas became some of the last Black Americans in the country to find out that they were freed, when Union army troops brought them the news two and a half years after the declaration.
The day has long been recognized in the Black community, and in 2021, Juneteenth officially became a federal holiday. Celebrating Juneteenth is more than just taking a day off of work. Juneteenth is a time for education about the positive moments and important figures in Black American history, as well as the dark times and practices. It’s a time to celebrate Black culture joyously, and of course support the Black businesses in your local community and nationwide that have been able to thrive as a result of efforts to earn more freedoms for Black Americans throughout history.
Today Galveston, the birthplace of Juneteenth, celebrates the holiday with two weeks of events, including a parade, gala, and panel discussions. Here in Harlem the Juneteenth Freedom Fest NYC is holding a week of Juneteenth events for the third straight year including panels and an outdoor festival at the Harlem State Office Building Plaza on June 17th. And on June 18th, Harlem-based Soapbox Presents is performing a “Big Band Jubilee” with 14 musicians at the foot of a brownstone at 120th street and Lenox Avenue, right next to NiLu.