What to Know About the Juneteenth Holiday

Friday, June 19, marks this year’s Juneteenth celebration – an annual holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. This year, Juneteenth comes at a particularly relevant time as our nation struggles to address its painful legacy of systematic racism following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Learn more about the significance of this historical holiday:

The First Juneteenth

On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the emancipation proclamation, declaring all enslaved people free. However, it took several years for the proclamation to take effect. On June 19, 1965 – some two and a half years later – Union General Gordon Granger informed enslaved Black Americans in Galveston, Texas, of their freedom. Upon hearing the news, a large celebration of dancing, praying, and feasting ensued. The name holiday’s name is a combination of “June” and “nineteenth.” It is also referred to as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, and Emancipation Day.

How is the Holiday Observed?

Since the original celebration, Black communities across America have gathered together to celebrate Juneteenth. Early celebrations in the years following 1865 were generally family cookout gatherings that featured speeches. As many former slaves migrated out of the South to different areas of the country, Juneteenth’s legacy spread nationwide. Today, many families carry on this tradition by gathering each year to eat, drink, and celebrate in their homes and backyards. Additionally, cities and towns across the country – including here in New York – hold festivals, parades, and even beauty pageants.

Juneteenth in 2020

The killing of George Floyd on May 25, as well as the other recent deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others, have sparked nationwide protests calling for justice and change. Amid these calls and the broader reinvigoration of the Black Lives Matter movement, Juneteenth is all the more meaningful and important to observe. Amid COVID-19 restrictions, many of the large annual Juneteenth events will be livestreamed. Be sure to check out New York City’s online event “JuneteenthNYC,” which will take place online from 10am-6pm on Saturday, June 20.

A Juneteenth Message from Building Skills

Building Skills remains committed to rejecting racism, discrimination and hate in every aspect of our society. For our team, this means that we will work harder to play a role in expanding opportunities and breaking down barriers for the men and women we serve every day. We say it clearly: Black Lives Matter. This Juneteenth, we celebrate freedom while standing in solidarity with all Black and Brown communities currently fighting for justice in our city and across the nation.