Another Independence Day: Why We Celebrate Juneteenth
A misconception among many Americans is that Abraham Lincoln ended slavery with the stroke of a pen when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, 1863. Two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, however, most Texans still did not enforce the executive order declaring that the enslaved were now free. The oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S., Juneteenth is an annual observance celebrating the date when all remaining slaves in Texas were freed through the enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation on June 19th, 1865 in Galveston, Texas. As we observe the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, we should also recognize Juneteenth as a holiday that has been hidden to many Americans for much of the last century.
During the late 19th century, Juneteenth was a prominent holiday in many African American communities, but the holiday never received official respect or recognition. With the growth of reconstruction, African American migration, and the Jim Crow era, the celebration became a largely forgotten remnant of the Civil War era. While little interest existed outside the African American community, in some cases there was resistance to holiday celebrations by barring the use of public property for community festivities. During the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, Juneteenth celebrations saw a resurgence in areas previously absent of festivities, such as Ohio.
Used to promote and cultivate an appreciation for African American history and culture, current Juneteenth events engage communities by creating a framework for educational empowerment by recounting the historical significance of June 19th, 1865. Since the earliest celebrations, festivities have almost always been focused on education and self improvement. Community events are held often on weekends close to June 19th and include neighborhood and block parties, Juneteenth displays in city libraries and schools, artwork competitions, presentations of community service awards, and outdoor barbecues and picnics.
Columbus hosts a three-day festival featuring music, art, and educational experiences in downtown Columbus. Other cities with Juneteenth events include Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, Findlay, and Oberlin.
To read more about Juneteenth, check out these sites: