Growing up, Juneteenth wasn’t a holiday my family celebrated. It wasn’t until I reached adulthood, when I learned more about the holiday. Unfortunately, many Black Americans had not heard of the holiday until the early 21st century, when it became officially observed in some states; and for some not until most recent years. After doing my own research, we welcomed this beautiful holiday- steeped in history and culture, into our home and annual celebrations.
So what is Juneteenth and why is this holiday revered among African Americans?
On June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger, rode into Galveston, Texas and issued General Order No. 3. General Order. No 3 enforced the Emancipation Proclamation, which set all slaves in Confederate States free on January 1, 1863. Prior to Granger riding into Galveston,Texas slave owners did not acknowledge or adhere to the freeing of slaves. It wasn’t until two years later that all residents (including slaves) of Galveston were free.
Juneteenth was officially celebrated among freedmen, the following year in 1866. The holiday, also commonly known as Jubilee Day or Black Independence Day, was celebrated by attending church services, barbecues, and gatherings to read the Emancipation Proclamation. As time passed, Black Americans were prohibited from gathering together in public areas, so they raised funds to purchase what is known as Emancipation Park in Houston, Texas. Although the holiday was originally celebrated among residents in Texas, Juneteenth became more widely celebrated in Black communities (within other states) as families migrated out of the rural south.
In 1980, Texas became the first state to make “Emancipation Day” a state holiday, and presently Juneteenth is a legal holiday or observance in 47 states.
For the past several years, our family has welcomed Juneteenth with a week of simple learning experiences leading up to the day. We read books, watch learning videos, cook delicious foods, and create art. The highlight of of our celebration, is popping fireworks and waving sparklers to commemorate Juneteenth.
Here are our favorite ways to welcome and celebrate Juneteenth.
-Read and discuss picture books about Juneteenth.
-Make a Juneteenth flag using different art mediums.
-Create Juneteenth poetry and have a family poetry reading.
-Make Juneteenth inspired foods or drinks together, with red hues.
-Have a Juneteenth celebration dinner or cookout.
-Celebrate with fireworks and sparklers.
-Attend a local Juneteenth parade.
-Supporting small Black Owned Businesses.
Of course no celebration is complete without reading our favorite Juneteenth books listed below:
-All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson
-Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper
-Free at Last: A Juneteenth Poem by Sojourner Kincaid Rolle
-Opal Lee: And What it Means to Be Free by Alice Faye Duncan
-The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States by Alliah L. Agostini
Strawberry Hibiscus Soda
Strawberry soda or Hibiscus drinks are common beverages for Juneteenth celebrations, because of the red hue. I combined the two to make one delicious Red drink with both sweet fruity, and tart floral notes.
Strawberry Hibiscus Simple Sugar:
2 cups Strawberries
1 1/2 tbsp Hibiscus
1 1/2 cups Raw Sugar (a little extra depending on your level of sweetness)
Ginger Beer or Seltzer Water
Place all ingredients in a small sauce pan, and bring to a low boil. Once it starts to boil remove from heat, allow to cool, and then strain.
Once the simple syrup has completely cooled, pour chilled ginger beer (or seltzer water) in a glass and then the simple syrup mixture. Enjoy a cool refreshing drink for Juneteenth.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Please visit me on Instagram @naturallylayan and my blog naturallylayan.com to get to know my intentional home and family.