On June 19, black Americans throughout the country will celebrate Juneteenth, an American holiday observed annually to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. The first Juneteenth was celebrated in 1865 in Galveston, TX, when Union general Gordan Granger read federal orders that all slaves were free. This event took place two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation formally freed slaves.

This year’s Juneteenth celebration will be especially significant as our country grapples with its longstanding history of systemic racism, nationwide protests against brutality against black Americans and the COVID-19 pandemic.

How do you celebrate Juneteenth?

Typically, Juneteenth celebrations include picnics, rodeos, street fairs, cookouts, family reunions and more. Traditions include the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” reading works from noted black American writers such as Maya Angelou and eating delicious food and drinks, especially Southern cuisine, red velvet cake and red punch.

Due to COVID-19, many traditional gatherings have been canceled. However, there are virtual celebrations happening throughout the country. One of the major online celebrations will be led by www.blkfreedom.org in collaboration with six black museums. At 12 p.m. on June 19, the organization will share a video on its website called “Justice, Freedom and Democracy.”