What is Juneteenth? Why is it important?

June 19th is recognized as Juneteenth or Freedom Day, commemorating the end of enslavement for African descendants of the transatlantic slave trade. The 13th Amendment, ratified in 1865, legally abolished slavery, and President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 was the public pronouncement of the end of slavery. Although the scope of enforcement of the Proclamation was limited, for many enslaved blacks, the 1863 pronouncement signaled the end of their servitude. However, it took more than two years to enforce the Proclamations, culminating when a Union general announced freedom for enslaved people in Texas on June 19, 1865.

Juneteenth is in most regards a celebratory event, but it is also an opportunity to reflect on the legacy of chattel slavery in America and the long struggle for equality that often follows the ephemeral celebration of freedom. This day signifies liberation and serves as a starting point for measuring the progress of the African diaspora in the U.S., which is why the day is one of pride and festivities. This day also allows for reflection on the efforts of so many Americans, of all hues, orientations, and social standing, to ensure the realization of the American ideal of freedom and equality for all citizens. Juneteenth serves as an opening for deeper conversations and a symbol of what is possible when we move forward together.

Throughout the nation, communities observe Juneteenth in many ways. In Florida, Emancipation Day, May 20th, is celebrated with processions, parades, and speeches given by keynote speakers. In October 2020, Leon County became the first Florida county to officially recognize Emancipation Day.

Please see the list below for local Juneteenth activities: