Juneteenth is the longest running African American Holiday in the United States.
Two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that emancipated enslaved African Americans, it is estimated that at least 250,000 were still illegally in bondage in Texas. On June 19, 1865, Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay with news of freedom and to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation.
The day became known as Juneteenth or Freedom Day. Juneteenth is informally known as the United States second independence day. Although it has long been celebrated in the African American community, and many states have had declarations or recognitions this history and significance was largely unknown to many Americans until recent years with the push for Juneteenth to be recognized as a holiday. In 2021, after years of activism by Opal Lee, known as the grandmother of Juneteenth, and supporters, Juneteenth became a federal holiday.
Early Juneteenth celebrations date to 1866, that involved church-centered community gatherings in Texas. Celebrations then spread across the southern states with a focus much on freedom, community, and family. The Great Migration brought these celebrations to the rest of the country where the celebrations grew into larger festivals and community events with the continued focus on freedom.
Today, Juneteenth celebrations include prayer and religious services, speeches, educational events, health fairs, family gatherings and cookouts, concerts and community festivals with food, music, and dancing.
In addition to celebrating the end of slavery in the United States, Juneteenth is a time to celebrate Black history and culture.
OPL is hosting several events to celebrate this year:
- Children's Story Time: The Meaning of Juneteenth, Saturday June 17 at 11am, African American Museum and Library at Oakland (AAMLO), opens a new window.
- Baba and Me Bike Ride, opens a new window, Saturday, June 17 at 1pm, meet at Lakeview Branch
You can also look out for OPL's booth at the Oakland Juneteenth Celebration, opens a new window.