In anticipation of Juneteenth this Saturday, we’re taking a short break from all things CBD to share some history behind the legacy of racial injustice in the United States. Despite the fact that Black Americans have been celebrating the Juneteenth holiday since the late 1800s, it has still been under-discussed and not fully celebrated by mainstream American culture and society.
In the spirit of community, bolstered by our belief that everyone has the right to happiness and wellness, no matter who they are or where they live, keep reading to learn more about Juneteenth and why you should celebrate this holiday.
What is Juneteenth?
It’s always best to start at the beginning, though we do hope that many of you have at least heard of this crucial day. Put simply, Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of those who had previously been enslaved in the United States. Slavery was officially outlawed in Texas and the other rebelling states by President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, issued on September 22, 1862, during the Civil War. On January 1, 1863, more than 35 million enslaved Black people were freed from their bondage.
Despite this, it still took almost two and a half years for the news to reach Texas! The date we celebrate now (June 19th) comes from the fact that General Order No. 3 by Union Army general Gordon Granger, the official announcement, was delivered in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865.
Because Union troops had to come through town to spread the word that slavery had finally been outlawed, different places in the Southern United States got the news at different times. As a result, emancipation celebrations – often referred to as a Jubilee – took place at various times between the official proclamation and what became known as Juneteenth, in September, August, April, and even November. But the Jubilee in Texas, now called Juneteenth, consolidated the other dates to become the annual celebration of this milestone in America.
The Equal Justice Initiative, which works to end mass incarceration, excessive punishment, and racial inequality, has a great primer on this holiday. We’ll quote just one section from it that we feel truly resonates with us and we hope resonates with all of you: “As an opportunity for national reflection, Juneteenth invites us all to confront the promises of liberty and justice that remain largely unfulfilled in this nation. Through this reflection, we can recognize and commit to addressing the legacies of racial injustice present in our lives today.”
It’s not surprising that there was a nationwide renewed interest in Juneteenth last year due to the breadth of protests about police brutality and the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Tayler, and so many others. Congress moves incredibly slowly, so even despite all this, Juneteenth is still not recognized as an official American holiday by the federal government… until this year, perhaps: the House is expected to vote on Wednesday the 16th. With the Senate unanimously passing this legislation just the day before, it’s likely we might see Juneteenth officially become the first new federal holiday since 1983, which was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. States definitely got here first though, and most recognize it in some way, whether as a ceremonial observation or a state holiday. By 2019, 47 states and the District of Columbia had recognized Juneteenth.
How to Celebrate Juneteenth
The celebrations were taken to a new level in 1872, when several Black ministers and businessmen in Houston were galvanized by their desire to have a dedicated place to commemorate Juneteenth. They came together to raise the money and purchased 10 acres of land to create Emancipation Park. It was initially just an open field with a race track surrounding it and an open-air pavilion in the center, but numerous renovations and conservation efforts throughout the years culminated in a park rededication during the Juneteenth Celebration of 2017.
These days, Juneteenth celebrations are largely in the form of family gatherings with lots of delicious food as well as parades and festivals, such as those which take place in Atlanta and Washington. If you live in a city with Juneteenth parades and festivals, we encourage you to show up and support!
Make even more of an effort to purchase from Black-owned businesses in your neighborhood and beyond. Watch Miss Juneteenth, a 2020 film about a former beauty queen and single mom who is preparing her rebellious teen daughter for the Miss Juneteenth pageant (which is, of course, a very real form of celebration in Texas and elsewhere). Celebrate classic Black American authors by reading Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time.
Last but assuredly not least, it’s very much about the food. Red foods are a prominent feature of Juneteenth menus, including red velvet cake, red beans and rice, and hibiscus tea. Other popular foods that go beyond BBQ fare include “prosperity meals and sides” such as cornbread, collard greens, Black-eyed peas, and sweet potatoes. If you already have a fondness for Southern comfort food, you’ll be sure to appreciate Juneteenth menus.
Whether you’ve been celebrating Juneteenth for years or only recently became aware of it, we hope we’ve been able to shed both light on and appreciation for this important holiday. One of our core values at Highline is that everyone has the right to happiness and wellness, emphasis on everyone. Educate yourself for an elevated worldview, encouraging and supporting growth and healing in every aspect of life.