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It is considered a “partial staffing holiday,” meaning that state offices do not close, but some employees will be using a floating holiday to take the day off. Schools are not closed, but most public schools in Texas are already on summer vacation by June 19th. Its observance has spread to many other states, with a few celebrations even taking place in other countries. As of May 2016, forty-five (45) U.S. states and the District of Columbia have recognized Juneteenth as either a state holiday or state holiday observance.


The states that do not recognize Juneteenth are Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, and South and North Dakota. Though Abraham Lincoln I issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, with an effective date of January 1, 1863, it had a minimal immediate effect on most slaves’ day-to-day lives, particularly in the Confederate States of America. Texas, as a part of the Confederacy, was resistant to the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth commemorates June 18 and June 19, 1865. June 18 is the day Union General Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take possession of the state and enforce the emancipation of its slaves.  On June 19, 1865, while standing on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa, Granger read the contents of “General Order No. 3:”


“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between the former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.” That day has since become known as Juneteenth, a name coming from the portmanteau of the word June and the suffix teenth, as in “Nineteenth.”


Former slaves in Galveston Rejoiced in the streets after the announcement, although in the years afterward many struggled to work through the changes against the resistance of whites. But the following year, freedmen organized the first of what became annual celebrations of Juneteenth in Texas.


Barred in some cities from using public parks because of state-sponsored segregation of facilities (Jim Crow), across parts of Texas, freed people pooled their funds to purchase land to hold their celebrations, such as Houston's Emancipation Park, Mexia's Booker T. Washington Park, and Emancipation Park in Austin. Although the date is sometimes referred to as the "traditional end of slavery in Texas" it was given legal status in a series of Texas Supreme Court decisions between 1868 and 1874.




Today Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a day, a week, and in some areas a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics and family gatherings. It is a time for reflection and rejoicing. It is a time for assessment, self-improvement and for planning the future. Its growing popularity signifies a level of maturity and dignity in America long overdue.


In cities across the country, people of all races, nationalities and religions are joining hands to truthfully acknowledge a period in our history that shaped and continues to influence our society today. Sensitized to the conditions and experiences of others, only then can we make significant and lasting improvements in our society. 





For this holiday, barbecue reigns supreme. At any Juneteenth celebration, you can be sure to find brisket, chicken wings, ribs and pork chops. Common to Texas, brisket meat comes from right above the front legs of cattle, which means the meat is usually really tough. It is cooked long and slow to tenderize the meat with flavor coming mainly from a spice rub or marinade.


Collard Greens & Sweet Potatoes


These healthy options were commonly grown during the time of slavery and offer a variety of nutrients like vitamin K and A. Collard greens can be made vegetarian depending on whether or not ham hock is used during cooking. Sweet potatoes end up in pies similar to their pumpkin cousins that grace Thanksgiving tables.


Red Soda Water (and anything else that’s red)


Red is a color that is seen everywhere during Juneteenth. You will find it as red soda water, strawberry pies, red velvet cake and in red beans and rice. The classic color symbolizes blood lost during the struggle for emancipation or the hibiscus tea that was frequently drunk by slaves during celebrations, depending on who you talk to.


Tea Cakes


This is not your typical cookie, but it could easily pass as a sugar cookie. It is usually made with butter or lard, sugar, flour and some kind of spice like nutmeg or vanilla. Tea cakes are such a traditional part of African-American cuisine that you won’t find a celebration without them. Even some fictional characters are named after them, such as Vergible “Tea Cake” Woods from Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” They’re that much of a staple.




When it comes to this cool summer treat, there is no Juneteenth without it. In an article by the National Geographic’s The Plate, Rev. Dr. Ronald Myers said it best:

“Watermelon and red soda water are the oldest traditional foods on Juneteenth,” said Myers, head of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation. “And there’s always been soul food served. Fried chicken and barbecue and greens and black-eyed peas. I’m getting hungry! At any traditional Juneteenth dinner that’s what you’ll find.”


Traditions for Juneteenth: Can you say strawberry soda?



Juneteenth (June 19) has become a popular time for family reunions and gatherings. As with most social events, food takes center stage. Juneteenth is often commemorated by barbecues and the traditional drink - Strawberry Soda - and dessert - Strawberry Pie. Other red foods such as red rice (rice with tomatoes), watermelon and red velvet cake are also popular.


The red foods commemorate the blood that was spilled during the days of slavery.



Churches also join in Juneteenth celebration with picnics and special services, many of which feature traditional African American music and hymns.




Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is a holiday in the United States that commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the state of Texas in 1865. Celebrated on June 19, the term is a combination of June and nineteenth and is recognized as either a state holiday or a day of observance in 45 of the states in the United States. The state of Texas is widely considered the first U.S. state to begin Juneteenth celebrations with informal observances taking place for over a century; it has been an official state holiday since 1980.

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