Today is Juneteenth, the newest official federal holiday and a day celebrated for over 150 years in Black communities across the country. In the spirit of cross-racial solidarity, we’d like to take a moment to explain the history behind Juneteenth — and share our favorite books, articles, videos and other resources for commemorating this important holiday.
So, what is Juneteenth?
Through the Emancipation Proclamation, issued on January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln freed “all persons held as slaves within any State.” Many people recognize this moment as the end of slavery in the United States — but that’s not the whole story.
In reality, news of emancipation traveled slowly through the southern United States. Even after the Civil War ended on April 9, 1865, fighting continued and white people continued to enslave Black people in Confederate territories. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865 — two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation — that abolition became a reality for the more than 250,000 enslaved Black people in Texas.
“Juneteenth was never about commemorating a delayed proclamation but about celebrating a people’s enduring spirit.”Annette Gordon-Reed
Black Americans began to celebrate this pivotal moment as Juneteenth — a combination of the words “June” and “nineteenth.” The holiday became more widely celebrated over time, gaining broader recognition during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Momentum for Juneteenth grew after George Floyd was murdered by police and sparked a wave of racial justice protests in 2020.
In 1980, Texas became the first state to officially recognize Juneteenth as a holiday. President Biden established it as a federal holiday in March 2021.
Juneteenth marks the end of slavery while celebrating the pride, love, and power of Black Americans and Black communities that have endured throughout our nation’s history.
How to commemorate Juneteenth
At Stop AAPI Hate, we are commemorating Juneteenth by reflecting on how to practice cross-racial solidarity with Black communities across the U.S. Below is a non-comprehensive list of resources we encourage you to explore and share with your networks:
- Visit Juneteenth.com to learn more about the history of Juneteenth.
- Read about what it means to be actively anti-racist.
- Listen to the 1619 podcast from the New York Times.
- Watch the Colorlines webinar “Asian Americans in an Anti-Black World.”
- If you are a caregiver of young children, you can find age-appropriate books to open a conversation about race on this list.
- Browse NPR’s Songs to Believe In: A Juneteenth Playlist on Spotify.
- Listen to this short interview about how to properly celebrate Juneteenth in the age of commercialization.
- Check this directory to find and support a Black-owned business in your area.