What is Juneteenth and how can we mark it this year?

Kathryn Wheeler
By Kathryn Wheeler,
updated on Jun 19, 2020

What is Juneteenth and how can we mark it this year?

Discover the history behind the day, and learn how it’s relevant today

Juneteenth is the national holiday that marks the anniversary of the emancipation proclamation in Texas, the last un-emancipated state in the USA, and the final step to freeing enslaved black Americans.

While the emancipation proclamation was first signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, it took more than two years before all enslaved black Americans were free. Some landowners continued their operations in southern states, and it wasn’t until 19 June 1865 that slavery was finally abolished.

Since then, the anniversary of the day has also been referred to as ‘Freedom Day’, ‘Emanicpation Day’, and ‘Juneteenth Independence Day’, before becoming ‘Juneteenth’ as it is known today. According to, many different celebratory themes quickly became associated with the day, including food and sports – many of which are continued today.

But over time, recognition of the day dwindled – with pointing to the fact that many 1900 classroom textbooks declared that slavery ended with Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on 1 January 1863.

Today, interest in Juneteenth is on the rise, with many US companies giving employees the day off, and celebrations going digital. However, it is yet to become a Federal holiday.

As Black Lives Matter protests continue across the globe, with the anti-racism conversation rightly at the front of our minds. This year, Juneteenth is an opportunity to reflect on the work that still needs to be done and the ways that we can break down racist systems.

So what can we do to mark this historic and relevant day?


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Join in

Join the conversation and learn from activists and online figures by following the #Juneteenth hashtag on social media.

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