June 19 marks the annual holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. While the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865, that Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and read federal orders that all previously enslaved people in Texas were free. Juneteenth—a combination of the words “June” and “nineteenth”—is a declaration of liberation and has been celebrated by African Americans since 1866.
In the wake of worldwide protests sparked by injustice and repeated state-sanctioned violence against Black bodies, Juneteenth seems more poignant and necessary than ever. It also serves as a reminder that, to quote political activist Angela Y. Davis, “Freedom is a constant struggle.” More importantly, though, Juneteenth should be a day of celebration—a recognition of Black resilience, Black journeys, and Black accomplishments. Read on for a few ways you can celebrate with your friends, family, and troop.
Learn the History of Juneteenth
Juneteenth is considered by some as a holiday that’s observed exclusively by the Black community. But it shouldn’t be. Minnesota was the fourth state to recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday, and President Barack Obama declared it a national day of observance in 2014. The history of Juneteenth is American history—and history that we all should know.
As Karlos Hill, a professor of African and African-American Studies at the University of Oklahoma asserts, Juneteenth is a necessary moment of observation. “Our nation and culture has not really acknowledged the trauma of four million enslaved people and their descendants. It hasn’t acknowledged the impact this institution has had on this country and continues to have on this country. There hasn’t been a national accounting, and I think the Juneteenth holiday is kind of a reminder of that.” Juneteenth isn’t the “other” Independence Day—it is Independence Day.
Check out books about Juneteenth—here’s a list that will appeal to folks young and old. Watch a PBS special that illuminates the significance of the holiday. And mark your calendars for the debut of Miss Juneteenth, which will be available to stream online on (you guessed it) June 19.
Attend a Virtual Juneteenth Celebration
Though many in-person celebrations are cancelled because of COVID-19, festivities still abound online. Here are just a few you can tune in to:
- 2020 Juneteenth Music Festival
- The National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Juneteenth: A Celebration Of Resilience
- The Amistad Center for Art & Culture’s Juneteenth Community Day Celebration
- Chicago Children’s Choir’s A New Freedom: Black Voices Honoring Juneteenth in a Time of Struggle
Support Black Businesses and Community Organizations
Buying from Black-owned restaurants, businesses, and Black-led organizations is just one way to support and invest in the Black community. Mpls.St.Paul Magazine recently published a list of business in the Twin Cities Metro, Uprising Minnesota offers places to donate, and Shoppe Black curates lists of Black-owned businesses across the country.
Lift Up Black Voices
The #Blackpublishingpower Campaign, which started Sunday, June 14, and continues through Saturday, June 20, aims to Blackout bestseller lists with Black voices. They’re encouraging people to buy any two books by Black writers during this week. There are lots of book lists making the rounds, so a quick Google search will yield many results. Here are some to start:
- Oprah Magazine’s 43 of the Best Books by Black Authors You Should Read in Your Lifetime
- TED Talk’s 62 great books by Black authors, recommended by TED speakers
- Teen Vogue’s 72 Books by Black Authors We’re Reading in 2020
- Literary Hub’s Queer Black Poets Since the Harlem Renaissance: A Reading List
(P.S. If you’re able, consider purchasing your books from a Black-owned bookstore! Many are accepting online orders, so they’ll ship right to your door.)
However you celebrate Juneteenth, we hope it’s full of nourishment and joy. From Girl Scouts River Valleys—Happy Juneteenth!
Lily Yu –Lily is a Program Resource Specialist at River Valleys. She earned her BA in comparative literature and Japanese from Hamilton College and has a background in publishing and advertising. Though she wasn’t a Girl Scout growing up, Lily is making up for lost time as a volunteer and troop cookie manager for her daughter’s Brownie troop. In her free time, she enjoys going for long walks, reading, and spending time with her family (And rescue dog, Neil!).