Juneteenth, also known as, Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, and Black Independence Day, commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. The day is also often observed for celebrating African-American culture. Originating in Galveston, Texas, Juneteenth has been celebrated annually on June 19 since 1865.  On this day, Union Army General Gordon Granger proclaimed freedom for enslaved people in Texas, the last state of the Confederacy with institutional slavery.

President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, issued on January 1, 1863, freed the enslaved people in Texas and all the other Southern secessionist states of the Confederacy. Enforcement of the Proclamation relied upon the advance of Union troops. Texas, the most remote state of the former Confederacy, had an expansion of slavery and a low presence of Union troops as the American Civil War ended. This resulted in the painfully slow delivery of the Granger’s announcement.

Juneteenth became a federal holiday on June 17, 2021, the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was adopted in 1983.

Early 1866 celebrations, involved church-centered community gatherings in Texas. The celebrations spread across the South becoming more commercialized in the 1920s and 1930s and centered on food festivals. The Great Migration carried Juneteenth celebrations to other parts of the country. Celebratory traditions often include public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, singing traditional songs such as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, and the reading of works by noted African-American writers, such as Ralph Ellison and Maya Angelou. Some Juneteenth celebrations also include rodeos, street fairs, cookouts, family reunions, park parties, historical reenactments, and Miss Juneteenth contests.

Food and drink play an essential role in Juneteenth celebrations and customarily feature red foods which symbolize resilience and joy.  Featured red foods may include strawberry pie, barbecue, red rice, hot sauce, red velvet cake, grilled red sausages, and so on.  The beverage of choice is a traditional African hibiscus ginger tea, or “Red Drink”, often said to revitalize the mind, body, and soul.

Select a hibiscus tea rather than the artificial knockoffs.  It’s easy to brew yourself and sweeten with agave, raw sugar, or honey.  Be sure to protect your light or white fabrics, Hibiscus flowers were traditionally used to dye fabrics and they still work!  The Tea Experience NY has a delicious organic Hibiscus tea.  Perfect as an iced tea for a refreshing drink during the summer.

Here are some ways you can celebrate Juneteenth and uplift the African-American community;

  1. Buy from a Black-owned business
  2. Listen to good music from Black artists
  3. Read a good book from a black author