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The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

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Celebrating Freedom: The Significance of Juneteenth

Spring+2024+staff+portrait+of+Payton+Liggins.
Sia DeyKoontz
Spring 2024 staff portrait of Payton Liggins.

Happy Juneteenth! 

Juneteenth, a combination of the words “June” and “nineteenth”, commemorates a significant date in American history. 

This day, which falls on June 19 every year, honors the liberation of African Americans from slavery and acts as a potent reminder of the ongoing fight for equality and freedom. 

Juneteenth was founded by Rep. Al Edwards, often referred to as “the father” of the Juneteenth holiday. In 2021, President Biden signed and declared it a federal holiday. 

“Juneteenth is a holiday predominantly for the African American people in order to celebrate their freedom and independence,” said Amariah Johnson, sophomore biochemistry major and member of the Black Student Union (BSU) at Eastern. 

The date of Juneteenth is rooted in the arrival of Major General Gordon Granger in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, who declared the end of the Civil War and the freedom of all enslaved people. 

Major General Granger made his declaration two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, the document that declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free”. 

The colors red, green, and black are particularly significant during Juneteenth. 

Red is the color of sacrifice, rage, solidarity, and the pursuit of justice. Green represents development, expansion, cultural legacy, and the continent of Africa. Black represents African American identity, power, pride, togetherness, and paying respect to the past while embracing the present. 

Juneteenth is a celebration of African Americans’ rich history, enduring energy, and steadfast determination. The colors red, green, and black together capture these qualities. 

“It is a celebration of freedom and not allowing obstacles to throw us off our course,” said Shavon Edmond, senior sociology major and member of the BSU. “Instead, Juneteenth helps build us and shape us into the individuals we are today”. 

A popular method of commemorating Juneteenth is through neighborhood get-togethers and celebrations. Live music, dance, and performances showcasing African American culture are frequently featured at these gatherings. 

It is customary to consume cuisine like grilled meats, soul food dishes, and crimson beverages, which stand for tenacity and fortitude. 

“My community would usually wear the colors red, green, yellow and black,” said sophomore BSU member Tatyana Phillips. “We might barbecue, meet up with our families and just embrace our culture and the strengths that we have because of our culture.” 

In addition, people take part in parades, which unite local companies, organizations, and educational institutions in celebration of liberty and unity. These events offer a forum for thinking back on the past and inspiring future endeavors. 

Juneteenth celebrations also include important elements of education and contemplation. 

A lot of towns hold talks, film screenings, and panel discussions with an emphasis on African American history and the current racial equality movement. 

“I appreciate how my community comes together and celebrates and educates all of us,” Johnson said. “I also love that people outside of my race come to show their support and learn more about the black culture.” 

The purpose of these activities is to educate black and non-black people about the significance of Juneteenth and the larger picture of African Americans’ contributions to society. 

Juneteenth provides a potent reminder of the value of freedom, resiliency, and community through these varied and significant festivities. 

“This celebration means a lot to me because it’s the day that African American slaves broke the chains,” Phillips said. 

Juneteenth is a celebration of liberation as well as a call to action, asking people to keep working toward a society where justice and equality are genuinely universal as the country considers the history of slavery and the advancements achieved since. 

If you would like to recognize Juneteenth this year, start by doing your own research, attending educational presentations, panels or parades, or enjoying social gatherings with family and friends! 

 

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About the Contributor
Payton Liggins
Payton Liggins, Reporter
Payton Liggins is a freshman sports media relations major. This is her first year at The News.

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