We explore the history of Juneteenth and why we celebrate it today.
BY KATRINA YENTCH
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
This month has motivated a variety of actions, both on social media and in person, from the greater community to support Black voices through the Black Lives Matter movement and beyond. Today, another opportunity arrives to honor and uplift the Black community: Juneteenth.
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the abolishment of slavery. At the close of the American Civil War on June 19, 1865, an officer in the Union Army, upon learning that the war had ended, issued an order in Galveston, Texas, that freed all slaves there. This came an entire two months after Robert E. Lee’s surrender in the Civil War, and even onward, it took a significant amount of time to take effect as 250,000 enslaved Africans in Texas demanded emancipation from their slaveholders.
The significance of Juneteenth inspired a national celebration because of the Poor People’s March on Washington in 1968, organized by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from April to June that year. Although the American Civil War fought for the dignity and rights of African Americans, its history eventually transcended into a struggle against poverty, and the march incorporated African Americans living in the urban north of the States into the Civil Rights Movement. Needless to say, the process of giving African Americans the true equality they deserve has been a long journey that is still fraught with conflict today. Juneteenth is currently not a recognized federal holiday.
This year on Juneteenth, plenty of companies and U.S. cities are taking a variety of steps to recognize Juneteenth. Some like General Motors are going to practice moments of silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, while others like Nike and Twitter are making Juneteenth an official company paid holiday for their employees. Philadelphia, Portland, Ore., and New York State have recognized the day as a holiday as well, and here’s hoping all the other states follow suit.
However you choose to commemorate Juneteenth, we hope you find a positive, actionable way that honors Black culture. We at Barista Magazine Online suggest doing this by learning more about the history of slavery and emancipation in the United States, and calling your city and state officials to demand action be taken to stop police brutality and abuse against members of the Black community, along with supporting Black-owned coffee businesses in your community.