Juneteenth: When Is It & Why Is It Celebrated?

5 minutes read
Juneteenth is an important milestone in US history

Juneteenth is a day that celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. The name is a shortened version of June 19th, though this date is not always the day of celebration. Juneteenth 2022 will take place on Sunday, June 19th this year.


Why Is It Called Juneteenth?

On September 22nd, 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. It stated that as of the following January, in 1863, any person who was still living in enslaved states that were engaged in rebellion against the Union would be free.

While this was a huge step towards freedom, it only applied to those living in the confederacy. Freedom’s Eve took place on January 1st, 1863. African Americans gathered together, awaiting the night when the Emancipation Proclamation would come into law.

When it did, they held church services and marched across the country, spreading the good news. For areas that were not under the control of confederate states, it would be a long time before this could become enacted. Texas was the state furthest west and would be the last to benefit.

It would take two and half years for this to happen. Turning up on June 19th, 1865, two thousand troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, and took control of the state. 250,000 Black citizens lived in slavery there, and it was announced that their freedom had arrived.

This is the moment that slavery ended across the United States and is the reason that Juneteenth 2022 gets celebrated every year.

Is Juneteenth 2022 a National Holiday?

Juneteenth became an official federal holiday on June 17th, 2021. It is now known as the longest-running African American holiday and the Juneteenth 2022 celebrations take place on the 19th day of the month.

How to Celebrate Juneteenth 2022

Celebrations for Juneteenth have been taking place for around 150 years in the US. However, it has only become an official federal holiday recently. The first state to observe it was Texas when it became an official state holiday in 1980.

New York signed it into law in 2020, and it became a federal holiday one year later in 2021.

As it is a new holiday, it does not have the institutionalized traditions that other holidays do. Many people choose to celebrate in a range of diverse ways. Like most American holidays, this often involves food, BBQ, and fireworks.

Juneteenth - Photo by Tasha Jolley

Photo by Tasha Jolley on Unsplash

Dressing in red, black, and green for the day is a common tradition, and Juneteenth decorations may also contain these colors, which are representative of African people across the world and their descendants.

This red theme carries on into the food people eat and drink. Red velvet cakes, strawberry soda, and watermelon also commemorate the day.

When enslaved Africans came to the United States and South Caribbean, hibiscus tea and kola nut tea were two drinks brought with them. Red beverages are a nod to this, as well as representing the blood of those enslaved or those who lost their lives.

Others may choose to celebrate Juneteenth 2022 looking to the future, and supporting local businesses and innovations is a practical way to do this.

How Do We Celebrate Juneteenth in the Gaming Industry?

There is no official way to celebrate Juneteenth in the video game industry. There are outstanding African American and Black characters in games, along with the excellent staff who make them happen, but there is still a way to go.

If it was not for the contribution of innovators like Gerald "Jerry" Lawson, we would not have had the concept of a games cartridge. Lawson and his team were the leaders of the Fairchild Channel F, the first console with removable games.

This has continued through to modern gaming with developers such as Rockstar game's Shawn Alexander Allen, who worked on the Grand Theft Auto series and Red Dead Redemption.

If you wish to celebrate their contribution to this industry, share your appreciation on social media and create dialogue to spread awareness.

What Is the Meaning of the Juneteenth Flag?

The design for the Juneteenth flag came from Ben Haith and illustrator Lisa Jeanne Graf. Created in 1977, Haith was a founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation and littered the flag with symbolism.

Consisting of a red, white, and blue color scheme it mirrors the flag of the United States. At its center is a white star, used to represent the lone star state of Texas. Around this sits another outline reminiscent of an explosion.

This represents a nova, the process of birthing a new star, showing the new beginning for African Americans in the US.

However, there is another very prominent color scheme around Juneteenth, representing the pan-African flag (created in 1920) with each color having a symbolic meaing

What Is the Meaning of “For Those Who Chose the Sea?”

The first national Juneteenth holiday saw social media awash with the phrase “For those who chose the sea.” It is a reference to people who chose to jump overboard during the middle passage, a section of the Atlantic slave trade that transported people from Africa to the Caribbean and the Americas.

Many would choose to jump overboard and die rather than live a life enslaved in a foreign land.

These social media posts often contained a picture of an underwater sculpture. It featured a circle of humans, holding hands facing outward. The sculpture resides at the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park in Grenada.

Named The Vicissitudes, it is by the artist Jason DeCaires Taylor. His intention was not to create a piece about the middle passage but to show unity and cohesion in the face of the elements.

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