Juneteenth: The day of Jubilee

Reparation New Orleans is calling for Africans Americans to march for reparations on Juneteenth (June 19, 2020) at 9:00 a.m. starting at Nora Navra Library

Juneteenth has grown to be a traditional African American holiday that is steadily becoming on par with Kwanza. The holiday commemorates the arrival of federal troops in Galveston, Texas. Why is this moment important? For two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed enslaved African Americans in the Confederacy, nearly 250,000 enslaved African Americans in Texas were still not free. According to History.com, “in some cases, slave owners withheld the information until after harvest season.” When the troops arrived they brought with them the news of emancipation and the celebrations began. Now the day is observed throughout the United States, Caribbean, South America and parts of Africa.

The first official observance of Juneteenth took place in 1866. Newly freed African Americans celebrated with songs, food, and parties. For its earliest inception, Juneteenth was more than a party. Early observances of the holiday also included discussions of political, civic, and economic engagement. According to historian Shennette Garrett-Scott, “blacks used Juneteenth celebrations to enact their citizenship rights in the realms of both formal and informal politics. They also asserted their economic rights by raising money within their own communities to purchase land and possess their own piece of the American dream.”

During the early twentieth century, racial discrimination and terrorism impacted Juneteenth celebrations. Racist propaganda painted the holiday as “un-American.” Lynchings and other racial violence, such as the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, silenced many observations of the holiday. Antonio Maceo Smith, a Texas civil rights leader, is credited with sparking the resurgence of the holiday in the black consciousness. Smith organized the Hall of Negro Life from a $100,000 federal grant. The hall opened on June 19, 1936 and saw over 46,000 African American attendees. According to Travis County Texas’ website, “in 1980 “Emancipation Day in Texas” became a legal state holiday under legislation introduced by freshman Democratic state representative Al Edwards in recognition of Juneteenth. However state offices do not completely close, as it is considered a “partial staffing holiday.” Elsewhere, the holiday is also referred to as Emancipation Day and Freedom Day.”

Currently, Juneteenth is celebrated throughout African American communities throughout the country. As of 2019, forty-six states have declared Juneteenth as a state holiday or observance. Under the current political climate of the country, the holiday has taken on a greater significance. This year many large corporations have promised to recognize Juneteenth is some form or fashion.  Allstate, Best Buy, General Motors, Google, JP Morgan, Nike, and Target all have announced that they will observe the holiday. For a running list of companies recognizing Juneteenth click here

Local Observations

On June 18, 2020 Mayor Latoya Cantrell issued a proclamation declaring June 19 “Juneteenth.” However, St. John the Baptist Parish took things a bit further and declared Juneteenth a holiday in the parish. Currently, there is a petition to make Juneteenth a legal holiday in Louisiana. Anyone interested in local Juneteenth events please see the list below.


Ashe Cultural Center: This Juneteenth Ashe will honor Juan Malo with a virtual celebration featuring a drum circle, spoken word, dance, and messages of resilience, resistance, and revolution from Maroon Queen Cherise Harrison Nelson and Baba Malik Rahim.⁣


Mobilizing Millennials will lead a march at 2:30 p.m. at Armstrong Park


Shaddai the Poet and DJ Ojay will host live celebration at Culture Park

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