On Sunday, June 19, the country will mark the second annual observance of Juneteenth as a federal holiday but for many Black Americans, the official end of slavery has been celebrated for generations. Also known as African American Independence Day, Jubilee Day or Freedom Day, Juneteenth is the oldest national celebration of the emancipation of enslaved Black people in America.
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is a significant day for Americans because people of all races, nationalities, and religions come together to acknowledge the history that built our country’s foundation. It serves as a reminder of our capacity emerge from our darkest moments with purpose and resolve to work together to build a better tomorrow.
On April 9, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia, ending the Civil War. However, slavery didn’t end until June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger announced in Galveston, Texas, that all slaves were free in accordance with President Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.
Today, we reflect on our nation’s past to learn how can further advance racial equity and heal current divisions.
How do you celebrate Juneteenth?
From parades, barbecues, rodeos to worship and community service you can find or create a Juneteenth commemoration in your community. No matter where you go, you are likely to find AmeriCorps members helping mark the occasion through service.
Engage Arkansas has partnered with the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute to provide a Juneteenth Day of Service Training for their AmeriCorps members. Where they will be able to identify ways to engage their community and open the dialogue about difficult conversations. By taking the Juneteenth Day of Action pledge, members are recognizing the hard-fought road that led to emancipation and recommitting to strengthening communities.
AmeriCorps St Louis
AmeriCorps members in St Louis are celebrating by giving back to those who came before through a day of service at the Greenwood Cemetery. They will work to clear invasive species and restore the 32 acres of land. This work is crucial as a post-desegregation as many Black cemeteries have fallen into disrepair due to neglect or abandonment. Their work also will include documenting and cleaning newly found graves.
Tiye, AmeriCorps Member
“As I look back on the history of the United States and the history of my own family, I think back to one of my favorite quotes: ‘You are your ancestor’s wildest dreams’,” said Tiye, an AmeriCorps member who serves in the VISTA program. Watch as she shares how her family practices Juneteenth and what brings her joy.
What ways are you celebrating Juneteenth?
No matter how you spend Juneteenth, whether in celebration, service, or learning more about our history, you can take part and experience the joy, community, and resilience that Juneteenth represents. Post your celebratory pictures on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter – don't forget to tag @AmeriCorps!