Honoring Juneteenth & Learning the History
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, holds significant historical importance in the United States. “Juneteenth” is a combination of June and 19th signifying June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, delivering the news of the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of slavery. It was a momentous occasion that marked the emancipation of the last enslaved African Americans in the Confederate states.
Three historical figures central to the efforts of freedom that led to Juneteenth are Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and General Gordon Granger. Frederick Douglass was a revolutionary who escaped slavery in 1838 in Maryland. He was an influential abolitionist and orator, dedicated his life to fighting for the rights of Black people. Harriet Tubman, also known as the “Moses of her people,” risked her life as a conductor of the Underground Railroad starting in 1848, leading countless enslaved Black people to freedom and freeing over 700 enslaved Black people in the Raid on Combahee Ferry in 1863.
The same year, the Emancipation Proclamation was finalized, which meant all enslaved people were supposed to be freed in the confederacy and across the nation, however Texas did not comply. Two years later General Gordon Granger arrived in Texas June 19th, 1965, where he oversaw over 2,000 troops to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation, signifying the last enslaved people being free and solidifying the significance of Juneteenth in American history.
Juneteenth has been celebrated since then in communities across the United States as a day to honor and remember the struggles and triumphs of Black people in their journey to freedom. It is considered one of the longest running American holidays. Communities gather for parades, festivals, and educational events that highlight Black culture, history, and achievements. The celebrations often feature music, dance performances, art exhibitions, storytelling, and traditional Black cuisine. Moreover, Juneteenth serves as an opportunity for individuals to reflect on the continued fight for racial justice and equality. It is a time to recognize the resilience and contributions of Black people to the fabric of the America.
*It is important to note here that the Emancipation Proclamation was disputed to not include sovereign territory, leading to the absolute last enslaved people not having their freedom until 1966 in Mississippi.
In remembrance of the struggles endured and the progress achieved, it is vital for individuals and communities to actively engage in advocating for racial justice, equity, and inclusivity. Educating oneself about African American history, supporting Black-owned businesses, amplifying marginalized voices, and participating in local initiatives that address systemic racism are meaningful ways to honor the spirit of Juneteenth throughout the year. By promoting understanding, empathy, and equality, we can work collectively towards a more just society, ensuring that the legacy of Juneteenth lives on as a testament to the ongoing pursuit of freedom for all.
- Seattle – https://everout.com/seattle/events/feel-the-joy-a-juneteenth-celebration/e146717/
- Miss Juneteenth in Tacoma ($1,000 scholarship) https://www.juneteenthwa.com/
- Tacoma – https://allevents.in/tacoma/juneteenth-commemoration/200024146938231?ref=eventlist-cat
- Tacoma – https://www.metroparkstacoma.org/event/juneteenth/
- Renton – https://allevents.in/renton/renton-city-concert-band-juneteenth-celebration/200024538594921?ref=eventlist-new-nearby
- Olympia – https://allevents.in/olympia/juneteenth-2023-celebration/200024546313722
Read here a reflection on Juneteenth and the Ongoing Journey to Freedom by Alonda Williams, President & CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound.