Juneteenth – A Day to Be Unapologetically Black

17 Jun Juneteenth – A Day to Be Unapologetically Black

By MARSHA MITCHELL | Comms Director

In July of 1852, Frederick Douglass posed the question “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” This speech explored the promise of liberty and how it should be applied equally to all Americans. It also emphasized that American slavery and American freedom is a shared history and that the actions of ordinary men and women, demanding freedom, would transform our nation. America’s newest federal holiday, celebrated this year on Monday, June 20th, is a commemoration of the day when ALL Americans were truly free under the law.

“In 1776 the country was freed from the British, but the people were not all free,” Dee Evans, National Director of Communications of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, said in 2019. “June 19, 1865, was actually when the people and the entire country were actually free.”


June 19, 1865, Juneteenth—short for “June Nineteenth,” marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people were freed. The troops’ arrival came a full two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.  General Gordon Granger stood on Texas soil and read General Orders No. 3: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”  The new freed citizens of Galveston started celebrating Juneteenth the very next year.

The Emancipation Proclamation didn’t instantly free any enslaved people.  The proclamation only applied to places under Confederate control and not to slave-holding border states or rebel areas already under Union control. It was not until December 6, 1865, that slavery in America was formally abolished with the adoption of the 13th Amendment.  Last year, the U.S. government finally caught up with Black people who have been commemorating the end of slavery in the United States for generations. President Joe Biden established Juneteenth National Independence Day as a federal holiday when he signed into law a bill passed by both chambers of Congress on June 17, 2021, two days before the 2021 Juneteenth holiday.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and had 60 co-sponsors. Bipartisan support emerged as lawmakers struggle to overcome divisions that are still simmering following the police killing last year of George Floyd in Minnesota. The Senate approved the bill unanimously; only 14 House Republicans — many representing states that were part of the slave-holding Confederacy in the 19th century — opposed the measure.

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However, the vast majority of states already recognized Juneteenth as a holiday or a day of recognition, like Flag Day, and most states hold celebrations. For years, Juneteenth has been a paid holiday for state employees in Texas, New York, Virginia and Washington, and hundreds of companies give workers a day off for Juneteenth. Supporters of the holiday have worked hard to make sure Juneteenth celebrators don’t forget why the day exists.Such concerns are not without foundation: Last month, Walmart rolled out, then swiftly apologized for, “Juneteenth ice cream,” after social media backlash. The retailer’s website offerings include Juneteenth paper plates, napkins and party supplies, but also a black tank top modeled by a white woman with the words “Because my ancestors weren’t free in 1976,” an apparent mistaken reference to American independence in 1776. It is out of stock.

Let the Celebrations Begin

For many, Juneteenth is a day of celebration and reflection. Or as Blavity’s Tiya Cantrell  said, “Simply put, Juneteenth is a day to relax, reflect and be unapologetically Black.”  Here are a few places where you can do all of that this weekend:


Catch the Juneteenth Day of Service and Community Resource Fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Compton Creek Natural Park.

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, the NHS Center for Sustainable Communities will host a Taste of Compton, a Juneteenth Celebration.


Downtown Los Angeles

Exposition Park

Catch the pop-up Juneteenth edition of the Prosperity Market that celebrates Black chefs, farmers and entrepreneurs at the California African American Museum on Saturday.Hollywood

Hollywood Bowl hosts Juneteenth concert

The lineup includes Anthony Hamilton, Billy Porter, Debbie Allen Dance Academy, Earth, Wind & Fire, Jhené Aiko, Killer Mike, Mary Mary and The Roots.


Leimert Park

The Leimert Park Juneteenth Festival is a huge celebration that features musical guests including Masago, Alex Isley and Kenyon Dixon.

Long Beach


From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Pasadena is hosting a family-friendly event that features live music and performers from the Alkebulan Cultural Center for its annual Juneteenth Celebration.


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