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Juneteenth: A Call to Action

What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is a holiday commemorating when more than 250,000 enslaved African Americans learned of their freedom on June 19, 1865. Although Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, slaveholders withheld the status of their freedom from the people they enslaved so they could continue to reap the benefits of their labor. 

While 47 states recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday, Congress has yet to pass legislation to make it a federal holiday.


Who can celebrate Juneteenth?

Everyone. Although a common misconception about Juneteenth is that it can only be celebrated by African Americans, everyone can and should celebrate the holiday. Independence Day celebrations in the United States have taken place since 1776, but it wasn't until June 19, 1865 that all people in the United States were free and independent, thus making Juneteenth the holiday that is more inclusive to all people and cognizant of systems that prohibited African American people from truly celebrating holidays such as July 4th. 

How do African American people celebrate Juneteenth?

Everyone celebrates in their own way, however, the most common ways to celebrate include parades, marches, and sharing food with friends and family members. A lot of people also use the holiday as a chance to educate younger generations about African American history. Juneteenth is a reminder of African American people's resilience and determination to live freely.



While some cities and groups still plan to host celebrations and parades for Juneteenth, many people plan to use the holiday as a day of activism and participate in protests against racial injustice and police brutality. This year and every year, Juneteenth serves as a reminder that African Americans are still fighting against systems that prevent them from being completely free. 

Here are some ways that you can celebrate Juneteenth:

The fight for racial justice is an ongoing struggle. While we encourage you to use Juneteenth as a day of service, remember that efforts must be continuous in order for us to achieve the change that's needed. Racial injustice isn't just an issue for Black and African American people, it's a human rights issue that requires everyone to listen, learn, and help prevent.

Resources from Hillel International

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