Interesting Facts About Juneteenth: Freedom Day

There’s more than one Independence Day in the U.S. On June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and announced that slaves were now free. Since then, June 19 has been celebrated as Juneteenth across the nation.
Juneteenth is a holiday commemorating the freedom of the slaves in the United States. The name Juneteenth is a combination of the words June and nineteenth. The day is also called Emancipation Day and Freedom Day.
There are a number of different ways that people celebrate the day including parades, marches, and barbecues. Many people get together for ceremonies that include public service awards, prayer, and the raising of the Juneteenth Flag.
Government and educational facilities will often have programs or information regarding the history of the holiday and the Emancipation Proclamation. It’s also a time for African-Americans to celebrate their heritage.
Mostly African-Americans celebrate the day in the United States. It is most celebrated in the state of Texas where it has been an official state holiday since 1980. Many other states recognize the day as either an official holiday or observance.
Here are some interesting facts you should know about this historic event and celebration.
1. In the decades following Juneteenth, several former slaves would travel back to Galveston to celebrate their Independence Day. The day would include entertainment activities such as rodeos, baseball and barbecuing. Guest speakers and prayer services would also be featured.
2. White people actively tried to stop Black people from celebrating Juneteenth in public spaces, but in the 1870’s, Black people pooled together at least $800 through local churches to purchase ten acres of land for an Emancipation Park in what we now consider Houston, Texas.
3. Juneteenth has yet to be recognized as a national holiday. Despite its significance and continually growing support across the country, the U.S Government has yet to officially recognize the holiday.
Every effort that has been mounted has been unsuccessful. On the state level, 45 U.S. states and Washington D.C. recognize Juneteenth as either a state holiday or ceremonial holiday, with Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota and South Dakota being the only states offering no official recognition.
4. Juneteenth is not the only Emancipation Celebration for Black people. However, it symbolized a critical point in United States history.
5. Ralph Ellison’s unfinished novel Juneteenth isn’t about the holiday, at least explicitly. Author Ralph Ellison is most known for his seminal work Invisible Man.
One of his subsequent works, Juneteenth is not about the holiday itself, but it does pull from the almost magical appeal of history and memory. While this work is held in high esteem, unfortunately it is unfinished.
6. The June 19 announcement came more than two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, so technically, from the Union’s perspective, the 250,000 slaves in Texas were already free—but none of them were aware of it, and no one was in a rush to inform them.
7. Red foods served are meant to commemorate the blood spilled throughout slavery. Barbecue is a staple of Juneteenth celebrations, like many other summertime celebrations. But that food’s meaning for Juneteenth is deeper. It is rooted in slavery and the tradition of slaves cooking whatever they had in whatever way they could.
More symbolically, red foods like Strawberry Soda, red rice (rice with tomatoes), watermelon, red velvet cake, and Strawberry Pie are prepared to commemorate the blood spilled during slavery.

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