Juneteenth is a celebration of the end of slavery in the United States. It celebrates June 19, 1865, when enslaved Black people in Texas were declared free by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger of the Union Army. Texas was one of the final holdouts of the Confederacy and the slave trade. Two years after The Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1862, approximately 250,000 Black Texans were still living under the tyranny of forced labor.
Even after Granger’s order, plantation masters resisted informing their workers, according to Harvard professor and historian Henry Louis Gates Jr.
“On plantations, masters had to decide when and how to announce the news — or wait for a government agent to arrive — and it was not uncommon for them to delay until after the harvest,” Gates wrote in an article published on The Root. Gates is also executive producer and narrator of the Webby Awarding-winning video podcast, Black History in Two Minutes.
At long last in June 2021, U.S. lawmakers voted to make Juneteenth an official federal holiday. Previously, 46 states and the District of Columbia celebrated the holiday.
There are ample free resources online to help those interested to understand more about the events and forces that led to The Emancipation Proclamation and the Reconstruction era that followed liberation. This group of short documentary videos provide facts and context by historians such as the Secretary of the National Museum of African American History and Culture Lonnie G. Bunch III.
What is Juneteenth and Why is it Important?
The videos in the following curated playlist will provide viewers with a deeper understanding of Juneteenth and why all Americans should honor it.
What is Happening on Juneteenth?
Juneteenth celebrations are happening all across the country, and many national organizations are offering virtual events.
- Carnegie Hall is celebrating Juneteenth with, “All-American Freedom Day: Only Together Are We Free,” led by Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes Jr., The Harry Emerson Fosdick Distinguished Professor at Union Theological Seminary and Senior Minister Emeritus of The Riverside Church.
- In addition to music, dance, and commentary, the evening will also recognize the contributions made by two African American leaders: Bryan Stevenson, Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, and Robert F. Smith, the Chairman of Carnegie Hall’s Board of Trustees.
- Georgetown Law’s Juneteenth Forum on the Future of Inclusion looks at how to solve the problem of financial inclusion and access for minority banking and business.
- The free event is on June 15. Speakers include members of the U.S. Senate and The House of Representatives, as well as business leaders such as Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista, Robert F. Smith.