A Juneteenth band plays during celebrations in Eastwoods Park, Austin, Texas in 1900. Photograph by Grace Murray Stephenson.


Millions of Americans celebrated Juneteenth last weekend with picnics and parades to mark the end of slavery. 

This year was the first year Juneteenth was recognized as an official federal holiday after President Joe Biden signed the bill Thursday. On June 19, the last slaves were unchained in Galveston, Texas, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed them in 1863. The law could not be enforced everywhere until the end of the Civil War in 1865. 

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris also used the occasion to urge Americans to get vaccinated. Later, the White House said equality was behind every action during Biden’s term. Former President Barack Obama, whom Biden served as vice president, instructed Americans to learn about activist Opal Lee, who worked for decades to turn Juneteenth into a federal holiday. Lee always believed she would live long enough to see the day. 

“Indeed! I plan to be here,” she said a few days ago, at 94. “If the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise!” 

People honored the new federal holiday in different ways. Some cities unveiled George Floyd statues, Emory University apologized to a Black man for rejecting him from its medical school because of his skin color and Milwaukee residents booed Sen. Ron Johnson, the Republican who said recently that he would have been more concerned about the Jan. 6 rioters if they had been predominantly Black. Other states issued proclamations and didn’t do much else besides close their offices. Those lawmakers included a few Republicans who voted against making the holiday official. Some shootings, a few of them fatal, marred the celebrations. 

Juneteenth also reminded us why many love federal holidays: a paid day off. The holiday pressured companies to give workers the day off. Corporate America hasn’t tackled a new federal holiday, and the vacation time it implies, since Martin Luther King Day became one nearly 40 years ago. 


Juneteenth: 19 Essential Tracks – The Source – 6/19/2021
The tradition, in honor of the abolition of slavery in the United States, however, has long been established as a marker of actual independence for Black Americans–complete with all the fixings of a celebration across the country: togetherness, food, and, of course, music.

Juneteenth Is Our July 4th, and Brands Should Recognize That – Ad Week – 6/18/2021
I don’t know about you, but as we emerge from Covid-19 protocols and gently re-enter offices and in-person meetings, I almost feel the need to greet my 3D colleagues with a super-celebratory greeting. And thanks to recently passed legislation, we are on the brink of being able to say “happy Juneteenth” nationwide.

You should consider some things if you are going to “celebrate” Juneteenth – LGBTQ Nation – 6/19/2021
First, most people don’t actually know what Juneteenth is, especially non-Black people. That’s because Juneteenth was marked first by freed slaves in Texas, and remained a small Southern tradition until the last few decades.

Why we need a Juneteenth holidayAljazeera – 6/19/2021
Organised by an African American woman living in Berlin, the day-long celebration consisted of people singing hymns, reading poetry, and even performing drag. Although our bodies were shivering from the chilly weather and rains that poured intermittently throughout the day, our spirits were warm from the outpour of love.

It can’t be a great Juneteenth when the people who made it a holiday push anti-Black laws – NBC News – 6/19/2021
It does not diminish the holiday’s significance to note that it was not the singular moment of Emancipation for enslaved Black people in United States, but rather one tremendous event among a series of historic occurrences that ultimately brought a formal end to the peculiar institution.

Juneteenth forces U.S. to confront lasting impact of slavery economy – Axios – 6/19/2021
Juneteenth, a once-obscure commemoration of emancipation of enslaved people in Texas, has transformed into an annual reminder about how slavery robbed Black Americans of generational wealth.


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