What is Juneteenth and How Should We Celebrate It this Year?

On June 19th is Juneteenth: a holiday honoring the day in 1865 when all enslaved Black people in the US were finally freed. Here's how to mark it properly.


Photo by Heather Mount from Unsplash


Juneteenth is one of the oldest and most important holidays for Black Americans since the founding of this country. Juneteenth is a shortened term for June 19th — the date on which the holiday happens. It's held on this date because on June 19th, 1865, all enslaved people in the United States were finally freed (this was a whole 2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation had been delivered).


Juneteenth is a day of both joy and sorrow. It symbolizes freedom and the end of suffering but is also a remembrance of all the terrible injustices that were done to African people by White Europeans and Americans for so many years. For that reason, Juneteenth can be a complicated occasion, and you may not know just the right way to mark it.


Here are our ideas for some ways to spend Juneteenth. Each of these ideas both encapsulates the happiness and joy associated with the day, as well as its grief, sorrow, and gravity.


Hosting an event or party


To directly mark the occasion of Juneteenth, host an event or party for the holiday. Whether you come from a Black family or community and want to gather family or friends to celebrate with traditional food and customs, or whether you want to host an event at your workplace where you teach people about what the day is about and have a speaker — doing something special on the occasion can highlight why Juneteenth is so important and that it is a day that should be celebrated like other important American holidays. You may also consider having a protest like a Black Lives Matter march or gathering. Protests can be a great way to educate people both about the history of injustice in this country and how it continues today.


Supporting black business


There is no question that Black Americans are at an inherent disadvantage when it comes to business and economics in this country (As well as in many other areas, like healthcare and mental health support). Help promote and support Black business owners who are running their own businesses and companies despite the systemic white privilege and racism in the country by shopping at black businesses only on Juneteenth. Make intentional purchases from Black-owned businesses to support their economic growth and do your part to shift the economic power away from white-owned businesses.

Want to know more about which Black-owned businesses to buy from (and want to support feminism at the same time?) Check out our roundup of powerhouse women of color in business today.


Visiting a museum dedicated to black culture


There are many official museums throughout the United States that are dedicated to Black history and culture. At each of these museums, you can learn about the history of the Black people in the US — including how they ended up here. Black culture museums are a celebration of everything that the Black community has done, what they have created, and who they are.


In addition to providing information about Black people in America through history, most of those museums will include some information on Juneteenth because it was the date on which all Black people were finally considered to be free Americans. If you are not sure which museum you should visit, here are some of the best museums dedicated to Black culture across the country:


The National Civil Rights Musem in Memphis, TN


National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.


The Whitney Plantation Museum in Wallace, LA


DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, IL


The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, MI


The National Voting Rights Museum and Institute in Selma, AL

Learning the history of this day and spreading awareness


The good news is that if you didn't know the history of Juneteenth before reading this article, you've already taken a step towards marking the day. Continue to read and learn about the history leading up to Juneteenth, as well as the ramifications it had once all Black people were freed in America. Once you've learned about Juneteenth, spread what you know to family, friends, and peers. The more people who know about and understand this important occasion, the more necessary attention will be paid to both the solemn and joyous day.


Do you want to continue to celebrate Black culture beyond Juneteenth? Consider marking Black History Month each year. Black History Month is the month of February, and a good way to honor the month is to try out the African Heritage Diet, incorporating foods that African people brought over to this country with them when they were kidnapped and enslaved.