Juneteenth is an annual observance on June 19 to remember when Union soldiers enforced the Emancipation Proclamation and freed all remaining slaves in Texas on June 19, 1865. This day is an opportunity for people to celebrate freedom and equal rights in the United States.
What do people do?A range of public, community and private events are held to celebrate Juneteenth, often on a weekend close to June 19. These include:
- Baseball games.
- Pot luck outdoor cookouts, barbecues or picnics.
- Workplace lunches.
- Neighborhood or block parties.
- Community flag raising ceremonies.
- Juneteenth displays in city halls, libraries, schools and post offices.
- Essay or artwork competitions for young people.
- Presentations of community service awards.
- The distribution of Juneteenth buttons, t-shirts, mugs and bags.
Juneteenth is a partial or full state holiday, or an official observance in about half of the US states, including Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Washington and Wyoming.
In some states, people employed by the state have a day off work. Stores, post offices and other organizations and businesses are likely to be open as usual, but some may be closed or have restricted opening hours in some areas. Many public transit services operate to their usual schedule, but there may be some changes. There may be some local disruption to traffic around large scale public events.
In the United States, slavery began shortly after the first English colonists arrived and lasted until the Emancipation Proclamation came into effect on January 1, 1863. On that date Texas was largely controlled by forces fighting for the Confederate States, which opposed the abolition of slavery. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers arrived to take control of Texas and enforce the emancipation of slaves in the state. In Galveston, Texas, the newly freed slaves held large public celebrations and so laid the base for future Juneteenth activities. The word 'Juneteenth' resulted from the words 'June Nineteenth' being slurred together in speech.
After 1865, Juneteenth was mainly celebrated in Texas. Parks have been established on land bought by former slaves to hold Juneteenth celebrations in the Texan cities of Austin, Houston and Mexia. However, it is now a state holiday or observance in more than half of the US states and there is a campaign for Juneteenth to become a national holiday or observance throughout the nation. Juneteenth celebrations are also held in other countries around the world, including Ghana, Honduras, Japan, Taiwan and Trinidad and Tobago.
The Juneteenth flag consists of a rectangle. The lower part of the rectangle is red and the upper part is blue and it has a solid white, five-pointed star at its center. The star is surrounded by a white outline of a 12-pointed star. The Juneteenth flag is often displayed with the United States flag to symbolize that slavery is illegal.
In Texas and some other southern states, the traditional drink on Juneteenth is Big Red soda. This variety of cream soda is a sweet, soft drink flavored with orange and lemon oils and vanilla. It is available in different flavors and with or without caffeine and sugar.