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What is Juneteenth?

Pan African flag with a red, black, and green stripe
Graphic by Aminah Jenkins

Juneteenth is celebrated every year on June 19 to mark the freedom of enslaved Black people in America. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Declaration that declared all slaves in the United States of America free. Juneteenth is celebrated through prayer, music and barbecues among other activities that take place not only in the United States but also worldwide.

These traditions stem from early celebrations that were hosted at churches or water bodies because Black people weren’t allowed to use public spaces for their celebrations. Today's celebrations include singing traditional songs such as "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and "Lift Every Voice and Sing", and reading works by notable Black writers, such as Ralph Ellison and Maya Angelou.

Though the Emancipation Declaration was signed in 1863, it wasn’t until 1865 that slaves in the state of Texas received word that slavery had ended. Two and a half years after emancipation was declared, federal troops entered Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and ensure that all slaves were free.

According to The Dallas Morning News, there were notable pioneers of this declaration, such as Opal Lee, who walked from Fort Worth, Texas to Washington, D.C. in 2016 and Lula Briggs Galloway, who was honored in 2013 for bringing national recognition to Juneteenth. Though it was nationally marked as a federal holiday in 2021, states such as Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey recognized Juneteenth as a statewide holiday in 2019 and 2020.

In 2021, Juneteenth was marked as a federal holiday after several decades of lobbying and protests by Black Americans. Juneteenth is considered a second independence day for many in the United States and will continue to signify freedom of everyone.

If you’re looking to celebrate Juneteenth in and around the Triangle, you can drop by Dorothea Dix Park for the Capital City Juneteenth Celebration on Saturday, June 18 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. If you want to shop locally-made products, Black Friday Market is hosting “The Juneteenth Shopper's Block” from 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 18 to 12 a.m. on June 19.

By Khadejra Golding, Contributing Writer



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