History of Juneteenth

Juneteenth (June Nineteenth) History

Though the Thirteenth Amendment did end slavery throughout the United States, not everyone in Confederate territory would immediately be free. Even though the Emancipation Proclamation was made effective in 1863, it could not be implemented in places still under Confederate control. As a result in many places enslaved people would not be free until much later. On June 19, 1865 when troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, army announced that the more than 250,000 enslaved black people in the state, were free by executive decree. This day came to be known as "Juneteenth," by the newly freed people in Texas.

Juneteenth marks our country’s second independence day. It has been called many things over time: Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day, Juneteenth National Freedom Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, and Black Independence Day. Although it has long celebrated in the African American community, this monumental event remains largely unknown to most Americans. The historical legacy of Juneteenth shows the value of never giving up hope in uncertain times.

Juneteenth Food Traditions

Juneteenth celebrations are marked with many hallmark summertime southern pastimes; barbeque, rodeos, parades, baseball, and “prosperity foods” - corn, cornbread, collard greens, cabbage, Black-Eyed peas, potatoes. Black-Eyed peas represent wealth, collard greens (or any dish using leafy vegetables) are said to bring good fortune, and corn symbolizes gold. And though not a prosperity meal, potato salad is generally seen as non-negotiable at any decent barbecue gathering. “The practice of eating red foods—red velvet cake, punch and fruit—may owe its existence to the enslaved Yoruba and Kongo brought to Texas in the 19th century,” from present-day Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, writes culinary historian and food writer Michael Twitty in his blog Afroculinaria. Red, in many West African cultures, is a symbol of strength, spirituality, and life and death. It’s possible this cultural legacy along with these groups’ distinct food knowledge of okra, beans, melons, and many other food groupings—some red, some not—was brought across the Atlantic.