Utah Tech’s Guide to Understanding Juneteenth

By Dr. Tasha Toy, Assistant Vice President of Campus Diversity & Senior Equity & Inclusion Officer

As we enjoy a three-day weekend due to a new state and federal holiday called Juneteenth, let me enlighten you on what the holiday is about and how we could commemorate it.

Juneteenth was signed into federal law by President Joseph Biden on June 17, 2021, and on March 24, 2022, Utah became the tenth state to make Juneteenth National Freedom Day a state holiday. Rep. Sandra Hollins, representing Salt Lake City and the first African American woman to serve in the Utah Legislature, sponsored the bill.

What Is Juneteenth?

The Juneteenth flag flies alongside the American flag.

Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, is a significant holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States. It holds great importance as a reminder of the struggles faced by African Americans and the ongoing pursuit of equality. This blog post explores the historical significance and cultural impact of Juneteenth.

Juneteenth traces its roots back to June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and proclaimed freedom for enslaved individuals, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation. It signifies the final enforcement of emancipation and the end of slavery in the United States. This celebration serves as a pivotal milestone in American history, symbolizing the end of an era of systemic oppression. It represents the resilience and determination of African Americans, as well as the ongoing struggle for civil rights. It provides an opportunity for reflection, education, and celebration of African American heritage.

How to celebrate Juneteenth?

Across the United States, Juneteenth is celebrated with a wide array of cultural events, including parades, musical performances, art exhibitions, and historical reenactments. These celebrations foster a sense of community, promote cultural pride, and highlight the contributions of African Americans to the nation’s history, culture, and achievements. Furthermore, Juneteenth offers a platform for education and raising awareness about the history of slavery, the civil rights movement, and the ongoing fight against systemic racism. It encourages open discussions, promotes dialogue, and inspires individuals to learn from the past to shape a more inclusive and equitable future.

In addition, Juneteenth promotes unity by transcending racial and cultural barriers, encouraging people of all backgrounds to come together and celebrate freedom. It serves as a reminder that the struggle for equality is a collective responsibility and that progress can be achieved through solidarity, understanding, and mutual respect. In recent years, Juneteenth has gained increased recognition at the legislative level. In 2021, it became a federal holiday in the United States, acknowledging its significance and ensuring that it receives national recognition and observance, further cementing its importance in the country’s history.

Juneteenth’s importance lies in its ability to bring people together to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans and to reflect on the ongoing journey toward racial equality. By understanding and embracing this significant date, we can collectively contribute to building a more inclusive and just society for all.

Happy Juneteenth!