There’s more than one Independence Day in the United States. On June 19, 1865, over two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, enslaved African Americans in Texas were told they were free.
Today, Juneteenth is all about celebrating Black culture, history, and life, bringing people together to honor all those who came before us and fought for the rights and privileges we hold today.
Although it’s a federal holiday, there is still a lot more we need to know about this historical event.
“It’s important, especially today, but it was important in the past because you’re talking about a group of people who were in a society, but they were not of the society because they were enslaved,” said Kibibi Mack-Shelton, a Professor of African American Studies at the University of Central Florida.
One way that Juneteenth is celebrated is by spreading knowledge.
“First of all, the name Juneteenth actually came from a white general. His name was General Gordon Granger. It wasn’t just Texas who had not legally abolished slavery. And in 1995, it was discovered that Mississippi never abolished slavery -- 2013 was when Mississippi slavery was legally abolished,” said Mack-Shelton.
Another lesser-known fact is there is a Juneteenth flag. The flag is red, white and blue and incudes the star of the Texas flag, and the “new star,” representing a new freedom and a new people.
“It has, in my opinion, even a larger impact that goes beyond African American history because it’s had an impact on U.S. history,” Mack-Shelton said.
Ways to celebrate Juneteenth are supporting Black-owned businesses, reading books written by Black authors and poets, visiting an exhibit or museum dedicated to Black culture, or donating to organizations or charities that support the Black community.