What is “freedom?”
Today (June 19), millions of Americans are celebrating Juneteenth, our nation’s official holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved people across the United States. Celebrated annually since 1865, this year’s Juneteenth is the first time that it will be officially recognized as a federal holiday. Juneteenth—a portmanteau of “June” and “nineteen”—celebrates the day in 1865 when 2,000 Union soldiers, led by General Gordon Granger, marched into Galveston, Texas, and ordered the freedom of more than 250,000 Black people who were still enslaved across the state despite the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier.
This historic “Jubilee Day,” as it was first called, was celebrated by Black people across Texas initially before it spread throughout the South, and then, eventually, the rest of the country. Today, Juneteenth is both a day of celebration and a day of reflection, as we recognize the progress our nation has made since 1865 while also examining the ongoing legal and physical violence perpetrated against Black Americans in the decades that followed emancipation.
This year’s Juneteenth is taking place at a moment in our nation’s history when we are dealing with the ongoing fallout from the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others at the hands of law enforcement; the COVID-19 pandemic and its disproportionate impacts on people of color; and our nation’s first true reckoning with the Tulsa Massacre, 100 years later. As today’s headlines demonstrate, while state-sanctioned chattel slavery may have ended in 1865, the battle for freedom and equality continues in 2021.
To learn more about Juneteenth, visit our official Juneteenth page, where you can find teaching and learning resources for students, educators, and families. On the page, you’ll also find links to digital exhibits, booklists, events, and other media that will help you to better understand the history of Juneteenth and its significance today to New Yorkers, Black Americans, and to the United States.
We hope you’ll take a look at the above video, which features NYC DOE students and staff sharing their own thoughts and reflections on both the history and the holiday of Juneteenth.