As we work to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion at the Food Bank, it is imperative to recognize and celebrate the diverse backgrounds and identities of our staff. Juneteenth is a cultural celebration to denote a pivotal moment in history, a time to recognize the challenges in Black Americans’ fight for liberation, and a day to reflect on and celebrate resilience.
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is a celebration to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. It is observed on the 19th of June, hence, the name Juneteenth. Sometimes referred to as the Day of Jubilee or Liberation Day, Juneteenth is a time to celebrate Black liberation, honor the work of ancestors and predecessors who fought for racial equity and social justice, and to recognize the work that still must be done to end systemic oppression. It is a day of commemoration, but also a day to reflect on the residual effects that slavery continues to have on this country. Those who celebrate do so through public and/or family events, opportunities to enhance their historical knowledge and understanding, or through service to the community and activism.
History of Juneteenth
On June 19, 1865, enslaved people were declared free in the state of Texas after the Union army entered Galveston. This is where the first Juneteenth celebration to date took place. It is important to note that the Emancipation Proclamation to free all those enslaved had already been signed in 1862 but was not widely enforced. July 4, 1776 is a date on which many Americans celebrate the birth and freedom of the United States, but it is a reminder to many African Americans that this freedom was not yet accessible to Black ancestors. Texas was the first state to observe Juneteenth, and it is now celebrated in 47 others plus the District of Columbia. Activists have been petitioning Congress to make Juneteenth a national holiday.
If you are interested in learning more, take some time to review these resources:
15 Juneteenth Celebrations in the Triangle in 2021
Greenville Juneteenth celebrations to feature cultural, economic focus
National Museum of African American History and Culture: The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth
PBS: What is Juneteenth?
A Virtual Tour of the Smithsonian’s “Coming of Freedom” Exhibit
The National Juneteenth Virtual Music Festival