Eight ways to celebrate Juneteenth and understand its history
Juneteenth is an affectionately blended term of the date of June 19, 1865, otherwise known as Freedom Day. Beginning next year, the state of Illinois will officially recognize June 19 as a state holiday, with state employees and public school employees to get a paid day off in subsequent years when the holiday falls on a weekday.
Yesterday, a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday passed the House 415-14 and was sent to President Biden for his signature. On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously passed the bill.
On Jan. 1, 1863, President Lincoln enacted the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that “all persons held as slaves…shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” Of course, there was no internet nor mass news media, therefore, the national news of emancipation to all was not swiftly known. Nor were slave owners willing to share information that their slaves were now freed under the law.
On June 19, 1865, two and a half years later, Major General Gordon Granger and other Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas. In the state, they found black people still enslaved primarily for three reasons:
- Some local officials did not share the information.
- Slave owners did not want to comply, nor share the details of the proclamation.
- News of the law did not reach them.
Granger read aloud General Order No. 3 across Galveston, explaining the Emancipation Proclamation to all residents, including slaves. Once the news was made known to those enslaved, celebrations erupted, and the date was officially declared “Freedom Day.”
In 1979, Texas passed a bill to become the first state in the nation to make Juneteenth an official state holiday.
Though not a federal holiday, 47 states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth as a state or ceremonial holiday. The three states that do not recognize the holiday are North Dakota, South Dakota and Hawaii.
Pritzker signed a bipartisan bill Thursday, declaring “National Freedom Day” or Juneteenth, a state holiday. This year, flags across the state will be flown at half-staff to commemorate the holiday, and a special flag will be raised at the state capitol in Springfield.
Eight ways to celebrate
Across the country, Juneteenth is a day filled with rodeos, parades and festivals. At these events, you can expect music, performances and food. Informal family celebrations, picnics and barbecues are even more popular, particularly within the Black community.
- Sign the petition to make Juneteenth a national holiday. Although Juneteenth is recognized in 47 states, it is still not a federal holiday. Opal Lee, a 94-year-old Texan, started a petition asking Congress to make Juneteenth a national holiday. More than one million signed the petition and legislation is currently in motion. Join the movement. Learn more about the proposed legislation.
- Visit local Black museums to learn about black history and culture. Examples include the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago and the Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum.
- Catch up on television shows, music, podcasts and books. Some of our favorites are:
- Celebrate “Freedom Day” with your family and friends. Enjoy a cookout or backyard barbecue!
- Attend “Civil War to Civil Rights” event at Oak Woods Cemetery. Hear the stories behind the people buried at the beautiful and tranquil Oak Woods Cemetery on Chicago’s South Side, from important local African Americans who fought for Civil Rights to confederate prisoners of war.
- Learn more about our industry partner, Dearborn REALTIST® Board.
- Support local black businesses and restaurants.
- Find charitable organizations across the country that advance black issues.
For additional info, you can visit these online resources: