Honoring African American Heritage: How to Celebrate Juneteenth Meaningfully

2 months ago

Honoring African American Heritage: How to Celebrate Juneteenth Meaningfully

Juneteenth is the most famous celebration of the end of slavery in the United States, and some folks see it as America's second Independence Day. However, the history of this important celebration is quite intricate and sometimes not fully understood.


The Origin and Name of Juneteenth

"On the eve of freedom, or "Freedom's Eve," as it came to be known, was December 31st in 1862. This was when the first Watch Night gatherings took place.

During this picture-perfect night, African Americans who were enslaved and also those free assembled themselves at prayer houses - both large churches and humble private homes across America watched for tidings that signified full implementation of the Emancipation Proclamation.

At midnight sharp marked a watershed moment whereby all people under slavery within the Confederate States became legally liberated. Black soldiers among Union forces set foot onto plantations in Southern cities with miniature copies of the Emancipation Proclamation braced up to disseminate news about their newfound liberty in territories coveted by slaveholders.

It wasn't until the enactment Thirteenth Amendment did we saw a complete abolitionist triumph over slavery countrywide. In spite of algorithmic truth, not every dwelling deep inside Confederacy soil felt warm light emancipatory news instantaneously due to enforcement roadblocks especially regions beneath Confederate power dominion.

Surprisingly, in furthermost western points Texas slaves experienced prolonged periods of bondage beyond the actual proclamation declaration year "Juneteenth" a moniker reserved special day- June 1865 liberating the agonizingly delayed taste of sweet nectar liberation.

Woven part American history tapestry an impressive event around the majestic assembly of approximately two thousand federated troops reaching Galveston Bay, Texas acting herald announcing thunderous revelation eminent freeing quarter million black souls from clutches brutality toast executive mandate. Resoundingly echoed annual festivities amongst freed men and women joyfully celebrating personal independence days like Juneteenth

Also read: The essence of Independence Day in the United States and Celebrating it Meaningfully


The History and Importance of Juneteenth

Deeper probing historical narratives events surrounding significance; a glimpse into post-slavery span between years; landscape sprinkled determination resolve offered much optimism dread humongous obstacles nation freemen zealous sources inspiration worked tirelessly rekindle broken family ties burgeoning academic institutions embrace governmental positions propose forward-thinking legislation even muster courage legal battles former slave masters reparations.

All these groundbreaking shifts course reincarnation after more than two centuries of servitude plight truly earth-shattering. Merely single generational shift post-slavery African Americans found inner strength genius to not transform personal trajectories but provide impetus nations metamorphosis.

Juneteenth assumes a pedestal second variant Independence Day celebration. Despite vast popularity within the black fraternity rest of the states isn't much in the loop about this historic occasion. Undaunted resilience spirit Juneteeth firmly reinstates unwavering beacon hope flutter across most uncertain windpipes.

Also read: The Importance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Celebrating Equality and Justice


How to Celebrate Juneteenth in a Meaningful Way?

Juneteenth has been celebrated for many years, but a lot of people don't know the full story behind this yearly holiday. Now is a great time to learn more about it.

We suggest visiting The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture website. They have blog posts that talk about the history and celebration of Juneteenth, along with many other helpful resources.

Year after year, many participate in/facilitate vibrant festivities commemorating Juneteenth. However, a narrative backdrop such jubilant holiday escapes public knowledge.Right opportune moment to dive deep into annal history and get acquainted with it.

You can also learn from today’s scholars and teachers, like LaTaSha Levy. She's an assistant professor of American ethnic studies at the University of Washington. She can help you understand more about the happiness of Black people, their strong communities, and the importance of reeducation.

If you prefer listening, we recommend checking out our podcast episode with Gordon-Reed, who won a Pulitzer Prize and is a professor. She talks about the history of Juneteenth and how we can celebrate it all year. Her book, "On Juneteenth," is a short, beautiful, and insightful read.

Also read: Budget-Friendly Long Weekend Escapes: Travel on a Shoestring


  • Watch a Documentary about Slavery

It's crucial to know that even though the U.S. ended chattel slavery, there's still a legal form of slavery today because of a loophole in the 13th Amendment.

To learn more about this loophole, you can watch the documentary "13th" on Netflix. Experts and activists believe this loophole is connected to the current U.S. prison system, which puts Black people in jail at much higher rates and profits from their work.

The documentary explains where this loophole came from, where we are today, and what we can do to stop this modern-day slavery.


  • Be Generous with Your Tips

When you go out to eat, make sure to leave a generous tip to show your appreciation.


  • Support Black-Owned Restaurants 

One great way to support Black-owned restaurants not just on Juneteenth but all year round is by buying gift cards. Many small businesses get more customers on holidays like Juneteenth or Black History Month, but unfortunately, they don't always see support throughout the year.

  • Support Black-led nonprofits and community groups

Nonprofits and community organizations led by Black individuals have always played a vital role in communities across the country.

To show our support for Juneteenth, we can contribute to nonprofit organizations that understand the needs of the Black community and work hard to address them. This also includes mutual aid funds and initiatives that actively support positive actions right in our own neighborhoods.

By supporting organizations like The Solutions Project, an environmental advocacy group that promotes opportunities for women of color to access nonprofit funding, and The Loveland Foundation, which provides therapy support to Black women, girls, and gender nonbinary individuals, we are taking essential steps in addressing systemic injustice.

You can also discover more Black-led organizations to assist through the Giving Gap's excellent website. They carefully curate outstanding Black-led nonprofits and categorize them by their causes and locations.

Here are some other Black-led organizations you might want to consider supporting this year:

  • Center for Antiracist Research
  • Equal Justice Initiative
  • National Juneteenth Museum
  • Black Lives Matter at School
  • Anti Police-Terror Project
  • Thurgood Marshall College Fund
  • Black Outside
  • Black Artists & Designers Guild
  • Marsha P. Johnson Institute
  • Color of Change
  • Colorlines
  • The Confess Project of America
  • The King Center
  • The Audre Lorde Project
  • Sister Song


  • Engage in reading works by Black authors and poets

Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom, happiness, and, of course, storytelling. Black authors and poets, such as Amanda Gorman, who captured the world's attention with her optimistic poem "The Hill We Climb" during Joe Biden's presidential inauguration, are inspiring a new generation of helpers and activists.

To gain a deeper understanding of Juneteenth and the events that followed, we recommend reading "Black Reconstruction" by W. E. B. Du Bois. This book provides a detailed account of the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History & Culture is one of many organizations sharing reading lists for Juneteenth that you can explore. Here are a few other quick book recommendations to consider:

  • "A Black Woman’s History of the United States" by Daina Ramey Berry & Kali Nicole Gross (Bookshop) (Amazon)
  • "Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow" by Henry Louis Gates (Bookshop) (Amazon)
  • "Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019" by Ibram X. Kendi & Keisha N. Blain (Bookshop) (Amazon)
  • "The Weary Blues" by Langston Hughes (Bookshop) (Amazon)
  • "African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song" edited by Kevin Young (Bookshop) (Amazon)
  • "High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America" by Jessica B. Harris (Bookshop) (Amazon)
  • "Libertie: A Novel" by Kaitlyn Greenidge (Bookshop) (Amazon)


  • Discover Audiobooks by Black Authors and Poets

Listen to audio books written or narrated by Black authors and poets. We really like Libro.fm, and they have a cool mission to help local bookstores by selling audiobooks. It's also a great alternative to Amazon. Right now, for Juneteenth, they are shining a spotlight on bookstores owned by Black people, Black authors, and Black narrators.

You can explore their big collection and find content that's all about empowerment, learning, and celebrating the Black experience. Plus, you can join up to make sure that the money from every audiobook you buy goes straight to a Black-owned bookstore.


  • Take Action: Support Black-Owned Businesses

One easy way to celebrate Juneteenth is by giving your support to Black creators and entrepreneurs. According to the Center for American Progress, even though Black Americans are 13% of the U.S. population, they only own less than 2% of small businesses with employees. In comparison, white Americans make up 60% of the population but own 82% of small businesses with employees.

If money and opportunities were spread out more evenly, and Black Americans had the same chance at owning and running businesses as white Americans, we could have about 860,000 more Black-owned businesses that employ more than 10 million people.

One clear way to help? Support small businesses, especially those owned by Black folks. We've put together a guide on where you can find Black-owned businesses to support, both in your local area and all across the United States. And we'll explain why it's important.


  • Create an Informative Email Auto-Reply

If your company is closed on Juneteenth, make an automatic email response that explains why the company is closed and why Juneteenth is such an important day. Keeping people informed about the history and significance of this holiday is a great way to show support for your Black team members.


  • Be a Champion for Racial Justice

It's important to keep pushing for racial justice at every level, whether that means fighting for voting rights, anti-discrimination rules, more inclusive school lessons, reparations, or other important policies. Reach out to your elected officials, support Black people running for office, and dedicate some time to turning your anti-racism learning into real change in the world.


  • Dine at Black-Owned Restaurants

In the early days of Juneteenth, the celebrations were all about food and music. You can keep that tradition going by choosing to eat at Black-owned restaurants. There's this app and website called EatOkra that helps you find Black restaurants and food events while also making the dining experience better for Black communities.


  • Join a Juneteenth Walk or Parade

Lots of cities across the country have Juneteenth events and parades, so keep an eye on your community's schedule to see if there's one near you. You can also sign up to take part in Opal's Walk, either online or in person. It's a 2.5-mile walk that honors the 2.5 years it took for the official news of the Emancipation Proclamation to reach the enslaved people of Fort Lee, Texas.

In 2016, when she was 89 years old, activist Opal Lee organized the first walk with the goal of educating the country about Juneteenth. Now you can walk with her in Texas or do it on your own to show your support!

  • Host a backyard party with traditional foods

Gathering around food is a tradition that almost every culture practices, and enjoying delicious food on Juneteenth is no different! This is a perfect time for a community barbecue or cookout, often featuring traditional and meaningful foods like pork, jerk chicken, and other beloved barbecue sides.

Most meals include a beverage or dish that's red in color, symbolizing the strength and resilience of enslaved people. You might find items like hibiscus tea, strawberry punch or soda, strawberry pie, or red velvet cake on the menu at Juneteenth get-togethers.


  • Enjoy Black TV and movies

Watch TV shows and movies made by Black creators, especially during Juneteenth.

During the entire year, it's important to diversify your TV and movie choices, but Juneteenth presents a great opportunity to appreciate TV shows and movies created by Black artists.

Here's a quick list (though not exhaustive) of suggestions for your viewing enjoyment:

TV Shows:

  • Abbott Elementary (Available on ABC, Hulu, HBO)
  • Queens (Available on Hulu)
  • Lovecraft Country (Available on HBO)
  • Woke (Available on Hulu)
  • I May Destroy You (Available on HBO)
  • Colin in Black & White (Available on Netflix)
  • Black-ish (Available on Hulu)
  • Grown-ish (Available on Hulu)
  • Atlanta (Available on Hulu)
  • Insecure (Available on HBO)


  • Moonlight (Available on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Tubi)
  • Get Out (Available on Amazon Prime)
  • Black Panther (Available on Disney+)
  • Summer of Soul (Available on Hulu)
  • Judas & The Black Messiah (Available on HBO)
  • Miss Juneteenth (Available on Amazon Prime)
  • King Richard (Available on Amazon Prime, Apple TV)
  • John Lewis: Good Trouble (Available on HBO)
  • Soul (Available on Disney+)
  • Just Mercy (Available on Amazon Prime, Apple TV)


  • Read good news about racial justice

Celebrate any holiday or awareness month by sharing positive news. We're all about good news at Good Good Good — that's what we're known for!

Every month, we create a Goodnewspaper, and every day, we send out a Goodnewsletter. Plus, we have a whole library of uplifting stories about racial justice to inspire you and help you learn something new.

  • This organization aims to clear the records of over 14 million Americans.
  • An artist created an "encyclopedia of invisibility" to share forgotten and neglected stories.
  • The skateboarding community united to honor Tyre Nichols after his passing.
  • The New York Workers Justice Project empowers women of color.
  • A Detroit community is bringing together Black and Brown birdwatchers.
  • A majority-BIPOC therapy collective is changing the mental health field.
  • At Work


  • Give your employees time off or extra pay for Juneteenth

Since Juneteenth is now a federal holiday, many employers take this opportunity to provide their employees with time off and use this time for education and raising awareness about the holiday.

According to a 2021 survey conducted by Mercer, 9% of surveyed companies planned to observe Juneteenth as a holiday in 2021. Some companies, such as Starbucks and Best Buy, are known to keep their retail locations open on Juneteenth but offer employees additional pay, as reported by NPR.

However, it's crucial that these celebrations or days off are meaningful and genuine initiatives, not just checkboxes on a company's calendar.

Employers can also use Juneteenth as an opportunity to give back to the community by hosting philanthropic events, participating in community service initiatives, or offering the day as a "volunteer time-off" event for employees to engage in community activities. Some companies even provide paid volunteer time off to allow employees to participate in local protests or rallies.

  • Shine a Light on Juneteenth in Your Newsletter

While it would be wonderful if everyone could give their employees time off, many small businesses and essential workers don't have the option to take a day off or offer the same benefits as larger companies.

But, just like writing an informative email, using your current email marketing tools is a great way to share more about Juneteenth.

This might involve adding a sentence or two—or even a whole section—in your newsletter to acknowledge Juneteenth and explain how readers can thoughtfully celebrate it. (You can even share this article as a resource).


  • Transform Your Good Intentions into Real Change

Taking action in the workplace should go beyond merely celebrating Juneteenth or other special occasions and awareness months. If you want to ensure that your good intentions genuinely make a difference, it will require purpose and expertise.

Explore the resources offered by The Diversity Gap, an organization that coaches leaders and teams to be more aware of race-related issues. Their podcast and book are excellent starting points.

At Home

Engage in conversations with your kids about race.

Many people base their beliefs and values on what they learned at home when they were growing up. You can help celebrate Juneteenth by having discussions around the dinner table about what this day means to the Black community and how we can show our support.

For children of all backgrounds, Juneteenth can be a time to learn about slavery in the U.S., the resilience of Black Americans, and the courage it took to end slavery. It's also an opportunity to explore the history of racism and how oppressive systems still harm Black communities today.

We recommend using the National Museum of African American History and Culture's guide for kids on understanding and celebrating Juneteenth, as well as their guide on talking to children about race.

Age of Learning also provides a fantastic list of book recommendations to help you engage your children in these conversations.

These simple resources are valuable tools for parents and teachers trying to explain challenging moments in history.


  • Visit a Museum

Museums are like time capsules of society, allowing us to see, hear, and sometimes touch history. They provide insight into generations past in a unique way.

American museums are using Juneteenth as an opportunity to celebrate, honor, remember, and educate. Here are a few of the many museums and cultural centers celebrating Juneteenth this year:

  • The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C.
  • The Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • The Louis Armstrong House & Museum in Queens, New York
  • The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in Montgomery, Alabama
  • America's Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee, WI
  • The August Wilson African American Cultural Center in Pittsburgh, PA
  • The California African American Museum in Los Angeles, CA
  • The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, MI
  • Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park in Hilton Head Island, SC
  • The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA


  • Practice Saving Money for Regular Donations

If your kids receive an allowance or run a lemonade stand, you're probably eager to teach them about the value of money. Extend this conversation to include topics like community care, mutual aid, fundraising, and sharing wealth.

These ideas may seem complex, but encourage your children to set aside some of their money in a special jar. They can use this savings to support an organization or community member of their choice in the future.

You don't need to give them a full lesson on capitalism (unless you want to, of course!), but you can teach them how to use their privileges to help their neighbors.

Consider heading to the library to research different fundraising ideas, explore various causes or social movements, and turn this into a learning experience for the entire family.

  • Supporting Others as an Ally

Similar to how Pride isn't about having a gay best friend, Juneteenth isn't about your journey as an ally against racism. Even though we use the word "celebrating," this day holds significant historical and cultural importance that can be very painful for many members of the Black community.

Instead of wishing people a "Happy Juneteenth!" as you would for Halloween or a birthday, refrain from posting on social media about your allyship accomplishments. Avoid taking over Black spaces unless you've been explicitly invited (and even then, consider your privilege).

The best thing you can do is listen, learn, and help redistribute wealth. And, with all due respect and love, take a moment to be silent.

Do Something to Make a Black Person's Life Better – With Their Permission

Think about what you can offer (your time, money, a meal, a letter of recommendation, or an hour of childcare) and use your abilities to support a Black friend or community member. However, ensure you're not adopting a "white savior" mentality, and always verify that your support is desired and appreciated.

Let's emphasize it once more: Support Black-owned businesses and avoid buying Juneteenth-themed merchandise from large corporations like Walmart. Last year, Walmart faced justified criticism for selling Juneteenth-themed ice cream and shirts. If you're reading this article, you likely understand how inappropriate that is.

Instead of getting involved in such nonsense, we'd like to remind you: Buy from Black-owned businesses! There are many outstanding Black-owned businesses and service providers you can support, not only on Juneteenth but also in the future.

  • Don't forget about your efforts against racism after Juneteenth

We wish that this guide serves as a starting point — or a reminder — for your work against racism, and we also hope that you'll keep the momentum going beyond this year's Juneteenth. It's important to celebrate the progress we've made and the steps society has taken to support and free our Black friends. However, we understand that systemic oppression doesn't vanish just once a year.

Employ a variety of creative talents all year long, support Black artists and creators, continue to read and learn from brilliant Black scholars and storytellers, patronize Black-owned businesses and restaurants, allocate financial resources for consistent charitable donations, commemorate other Black holidays each month, and stay committed to the fight for liberation throughout the year.

In School

Access educational materials about American slavery for free.

Children spend their formative years (and a significant portion of their daily lives) in school, absorbing knowledge, developing independent thinking, and asking questions.

While teaching about slavery in America can be challenging, there are organizations dedicated to making it easier for educators to access age-appropriate tools and resources for teaching American history.

Learning for Justice assists educators and students in combating prejudice by offering free educational materials, including articles, guides, lessons, films, podcasts, webinars, frameworks, and more. These resources are designed to promote shared learning and reflection among educators, young people, and the broader community.


  • Make Black voices louder

Let's repeat it: if you are not part of the Black community, don't turn the spotlight on yourself. Avoid sharing on social media about all the great things you've done as a supporter. Instead, listen online, educate yourself, and back Black voices by making their content more prominent.

  • Adding books on Juneteenth to the Library

Adding books on Juneteenth to your school or in-class library is a wonderful initiative to promote diversity and awareness among students. Here's a list of recommended books to include, along with some information on how to acquire them:

  • "Juneteenth For Mazie" by Floyd Cooper
  • "Opal Lee and What it Means to Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth" by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo
  • "Crossing Ebenezer Creek" by Tonya Bolden
  • "Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed The World" by Susan Hood
  • "All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom" by Angela Johnson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis
  • "One Crazy Summer" by Rita Williams-Garcia
  • "Big Papa and the Time Machine" by Daniel Bernstrom, illustrated by Shane W. Evans

To acquire these books for your classroom library, you can consider the following options:

First Book Marketplace: This platform provides educators with access to free and affordable high-quality books. You can explore their collection and find suitable titles for your library.

Half Price Books: They offer a 10% discount to educators and accept requests for free books online. You can check their selection and make requests for Juneteenth-related books.

Additionally, you can expand your collection by exploring book recommendation lists from organizations like the New York Public Library and Boston University.

To promote these resources and celebrate Juneteenth in your community, you can use social media effectively. Share photos of past or present Juneteenth celebrations to raise awareness and showcase the significance of this day. You can also access the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture Social Media Toolkit to share more insights and information about Juneteenth with your audience.

By incorporating these books and utilizing social media, you can create an inclusive learning environment that fosters understanding and appreciation for Juneteenth and Black history among your students.