abstract silhouettes of people with varied dark skin colors, with colorful raised fist in foreground

Juneteenth, a holiday in the USA, commemorates the emancipation of African Americans who had been enslaved. The date is set for the day, June 19, 1865, that federal troops in Texas announced a general order proclaiming the freedom of enslaved people in Texas, enforcing the Emancipation Proclamation. That Proclamation had declared an end to enslavement with the states which had aligned with the Confederacy as of January 1, 1863. Juneteenth as a celebration was first celebrated in 1866. The day was recognized as a federal holiday in 2021.

Every year we must remind successive generations that this event triggered a series of events that one by one defines the challenges and responsibilities of successive generations. That’s why we need this holiday.

— Al Edwards

Today on Juneteenth, the day we celebrate the end of slavery, the day we memorialize those who offered us hope for the future and the day when we renew our commitment to the struggle for freedom.

— Angela Davis

Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory or an acceptance of the way things are. It’s a celebration of progress. It’s an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, change is possible—and there is still so much work to do.

— Barack Obama

Juneteenth is important to me because till this day black people are still subject to racial injustice on a global scale, and are still victims of racial abuse regardless of where they are from. Juneteenth allows us to remember how far black people have progressed since and it is a reminder of the strength we have within us.

— Bethel Kyeza

On this day, June 19, 1865, Black people’s complete personhood was acknowledged on a systemic level for the very first time. It dates the moment African-Americans, Caribbean-Americans, and Afro-immigrants alike could begin to, on some level, participate in and see themselves as part of a whole society. Since the passage of the 13th amendment, Black Americans like Shirley Chisolm have trail-blazed the socio-political world, creating a place for women like me to feel empowered in sharing my voice and stories with the world.

— Brianna Taylor

Understanding history is one of many ways to break the cycle. Lift up/amplify Black voices. Support Black owned businesses. Reach back. Mentor.

— Chadwick Boseman

Juneteenth reminds me of Black freedom dreams, my freedom dreams. In 1865, the port city of Galveston, Texas, or the land formerly known as Mexico as I call it, where so much blood, Indigenous blood, Mexican and Tejano blood, Black blood had been shed, there was a freedom ring that was heard across the world. I hear that ring still and it is a reminder that I stand on others’ shoulders and I, like my ancestors—my Mascogo, Afro-Seminole, African and Black ancestors—who honor Juneteenth with me, will have to prepare a place for the generations that come after so they may experience more joy, more rest, more freedom; so they may experience liberation. Juneteenth represents liberation and it belongs to us. It is a constant reminder that Black freedom is predestined, that only we can tell our stories and that there is no freedom, without Black freedom.

— Dannese Mapanda

Juneteenth to me means a lot. When we think about the African Diaspora and the history rooted in America and freedom for African Americans it serves a reminder that there are people before us that have fought for liberation. It shows that even after the emancipation proclamation was signed in 1863 African Americans still were not liberated. It redefined what liberation meant for the African American community here in the US. It showed that our liberation comes from us. Liberation lies within us and will not be formed from the current institutional structures we have in place for it never has.

— Fatimata Cham

Juneteenth may mark just one moment in the struggle for emancipation, but the holiday gives us an occasion to reflect on the profound contributions of enslaved Black Americans to the cause of human freedom.

— Jamelle Bouie

Throughout history, Juneteenth has been known by many names: Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, Liberation Day, Emancipation Day and, today, a national holiday.

— Kamala Harris

It’s an opportunity to both look back but to look ahead to make sure that that notion of freedom and the fragility of it is always protected and celebrated.

— Lonnie Bunch

Juneteenth means so much to me. It represents the freedom that my ancestors fought so tirelessly for. But rather than focusing on the brutalization of my people then and now. I choose to focus on hope. June 19th reminds me that I am the force of power to change this world and to follow in the footsteps of my ancestors to work towards liberation.

— Mariah Cooley

What I love about Juneteenth is that even in that extended wait, we still find something to celebrate. Even though the story has never been tidy, and Black folks have had to march and fight for every inch of our freedom, our story is nonetheless one of progress.

— Michelle Obama

The American education system has taught us as children that Black people have history in pain and survival. They have failed to teach us our history in joy, success, innovations and so much more. Juneteenth is a reclaim on our history that has been stolen. Juneteenth is greater to us than a Fourth of July or Christmas because it represents our culture, resilience, and deserving respect from a country WE built.

— Nia White

Juneteenth was a promise that was broken. Reconstruction failed and this country has continued to wage war on the Black body. Juneteenth also embodies the resilience of Black people. Even in the face of a broken system, we choose to find joy in resistance and celebrate in community.

— Obrian Rosario

The day we were free—everyone was free. Why not make it a paid holiday? We deserve that…We want a day that is inclusive to everyone.

— Pharrell Williams

We Black folk, our history, and our present being are a mirror of all the manifold experiences of America… If we Black folk perish, America will perish.

— Richard Wright

Emancipation was as a result of dedication, hard work, speaking up, and speaking out. For people like me who believe in speaking up and speaking out, for times when we feel overwhelmed, or that laws and the world is moving backwards, it gives me hope. These landmarks from emancipation to the end of segregation and enactment of laws that push us one step closer to equality for all gives me hope. I remain aware that laws alone don’t cause the change, but they give a backing, a recognition, I believe is so important.

— Sikemi Okunrinboye

The 4th of July was never about Black people. Juneteenth is just for us. As Black people, we are told we don’t deserve our own holidays rooted in our own history. Everything is whitewashed. Juneteenth is for us…Juneteenth symbolizes the hope that my children and grandchildren will be free. It’s Black Joy and Black tenacity to survive.

— Tanesha Grant

The proclamation notes that freedom shall not be repressed. This is what I believe to be the primary significance of Juneteenth.

— Theodorea Regina Berry

What historical narrative are we willing to weave in order to remind people not only that we were here enduring the trials but that we stared the fang toothed wolves of injustice in the face and said ‘no more.’

— Travon Free

If there is just about anything to rejoice it can be my ancestors, African People who survived the atrocity and stain of slavery… I honor them these days with a guarantee that I will keep on to combat for your unexplored desires and hopes.

— Viola Davis
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