3 Things You Should Know About Juneteenth

Jun 16, 2021 | Blog

Starting this year, United Way of Greater Nashville is recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday. Currently, Juneteenth is not a federal holiday. But, because most states observe Juneteenth, it is a national holiday. On June 18th, we are extending staff time away from work to commemorate the significance of Juneteenth and jumpstart the Juneteenth weekend.

Today (June 16), The Family Collective (TFC) and Read to Succeed (RTS) launched a Lunch & Learn series as part of their ongoing staff/partners trainings. The first session celebrates Juneteenth!

A brief history of Juneteenth
Juneteenth originated in Texas. In the 19th century, Texas was considered a remote region. Abraham Lincoln issued (a second) Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, which was an executive order that granted freedom to “all persons held as slaves within any State.” But, the emancipation of enslaved Africans was not practical in Confederate territory, especially those that resided in remote areas. The Civil War ended in the spring of 1865. However, the Union army did not announce and consistently enforce freedom for enslaved Africans in Texas until June 19, 1865. The first Juneteenth celebration was held in Texas in 1866. Since then, the annual celebration has ebbed and flowed over the decades. In recent years, the racial justice movement has reinvigorated Juneteenth celebrations nationwide by:

  • Reinforcing that African Americans were extended legislative freedom in the 19th century, but injustices persist today
  • Encouraging Americans to embrace diversity and inclusion in all areas of society, including sociocultural, legislative and systemic spaces. In doing so, we become more inclusive by observing more national holidays, commemorating the legacy of the holiday and honoring cultural tradition.

As more communities and workplaces across the U.S observe Juneteenth, here are three things you should know about the annual celebration.

#1 Juneteenth has more than one alias. The celebration is known as Freedom Day, Liberation Day or Emancipation Day. The alias is often regional. For example, West Tennesseans often celebrate with Jubilee Day In fact, Texans referred to the first celebration (back in 1866) as Jubilee Day. Today, as more Americans recognize and celebrate the holiday, Juneteenth has become more commonplace.

#2 Juneteenth has a theme color. Red is unofficially the official color of Juneteenth. Since the 19th century, African Americans— especially Texas residents— have celebrated by preparing red desserts and red beverages, which symbolizes centuries of bloodshed during enslavement. Red is also a legacy of West African cultural, culinary and spiritual TFC and RTS recommend the following books on Black culinary tradition:

  • Black Girl Baking: Wholesome Recipes Inspired by a Soulful Upbringing (Jerrelle Guy, 2018)
  • High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America (Jessica B. Harris, 2011)
  • Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking: A Cookbook (Toni Tipton-Martin, 2019)

Fun fact: By the late 1800s, red food coloring was highly popular in the U.S. By the 1920s, red soft drinks, like the Texas-made soda Big Red, became part of Juneteenth tradition.*

#3 Juneteenth did not abolish chattel slavery. As previously noted, Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of enslaved Africans in Texas. Nationwide, the abolishment of slavery occurred in two waves. First, the U.S. government completed the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in December 1885, which finally freed enslaved Africans in Delaware and Kentucky. The second wave took place in 1866 when Indian Territories released those who were enslaved.

What are your plans for Juneteenth?
Many events are being held throughout Middle Tennessee. Check out these gatherings:

Clarksville – Juneteenth Celebration Block Party
Clarksville – First Annual Juneteenth Festival
Franklin – Juneteenth: We Stand United
Nashville – The Music City Freedom Festival
Nashville – Juneteenth on the River Celebration
Nashville – Juneteenth Block Party at the National Museum of African American Music
Nashville – Juneteenth at Bradley Academy Museum and Cultural Center
Nashville – Juneteenth at the Frist
Nashville – Juneteenth Community Celebration
Nashville – Juneteenth615
Murfreesboro – Our Juneteenth Celebration

*Retrieved from atlasobscura.com/articles/what-is-juneteenth