Skip to content Skip to navigation

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Blog

Other Blogs

Juneteenth – what’s it all about?  

19 June 2024

2 mins

Juneteenth, which takes place on 19 June, is a celebration of the freedom, culture and empowerment of African-Americans.  

You may have heard the term and noticed media coverage about Juneteenth recently; indeed there has been an increase in Juneteenth celebrations in the past few years. You may have also noticed the word ‘Juneteenth’ is a joining together of the words “June” and “nineteenth”. But what is this day actually about? 

What is Juneteenth?  

Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 when the last enslaved people in the United States – in Galveston, Texas – learned they were free. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863. But, the law could not be enforced in the state of Texas which was still under confederate control. It would be another two and a half years before the news of freedom would reach enslaved African Americans in the state of Texas. This is why Juneteenth is seen by many as the end of slavery. 

Why has there been renewed interest? 

Although Juneteenth was declared a state holiday in Texas in 1980, with many states soon following suit, it would take decades of campaigning for the day to be nationally recognised. As the Black Lives Matter campaign movement, spurred by the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, gained momentum, President Biden signed legislation in 2021 that made Juneteenth a federal holiday. 

Why is it still important? 

Today, Juneteenth is a day to celebrate as well as to reflect. It is an opportunity to recognise the sacrifices made for civil rights and to draw attention to racial inequalities. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Black communities in Southern states collectively purchased lots of land on the outskirts of town to host their Juneteenth celebrations – because segregation laws meant they could not safely gather anywhere else. Today, the state of Florida education board has revised history standards which includes teaching pupils that African Americans benefitted from slavery. Juneteenth marks the emancipation of enslaved people in the US but racism, discrimination and the legacy of slavery are still to be dismantled.  

The Smithsonian Museum, Washington, DC, have a Juneteenth Digital Toolkit to help you learn more about the history of the day and its significance today. 

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Reflections, comments, discussion and opinion on EDI topics from Loughborough University staff and students

Scroll to Top