A History of Juneteeth + How You Can Help by Supporting Local Black-Owned Businesses

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Celebrate freedom — that’s the idea behind Juneteenth, a long nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery in the U.S. Juneteenth takes place every year on June 19th and you can support it by shopping at local, Black-owned businesses.

“Juneteenth also known as Freedom Day, Cel-iberation Day, or Emancipation Day, is an annual holiday observing the end of slavery in the U.S.,” explains Alyza Brevard-Rodriguez of SW3AT Sauna Studio in Jersey City. “It marks the day, June 19th, 1865, when news of emancipation reached people in the deepest parts of the former Confederacy in Galveston, Texas two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Liberated Black Americans celebrated by prayer, dance, parades, and community feasts.”

This year’s Freedom Day comes on the heels of several tragedies that have caused global outrage, as they resulted in the loss of innocent Black lives to police brutality. Of course, we’re referencing the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless other Black people who have been killed by police in the U.S.

All of this we write with a heavy heart, as though these killings are not directly related to Juneteenth, we hope this year’s Freedom Day will be the biggest yet in that more people than ever take part in the commemoration by choosing to only shop at local Black-owned businesses for the entire day of June 19th.

Here’s what you need to know about Juneteenth + how you can support it.

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The History of Juneteenth

According to Juneteenth.com, Juneteenth is the oldest celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery in the U.S. The day dates back to June 19th, 1865 — the day Major General Gordon Granger and his Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas to learn that the war was over and all Black slaves were free.

This is meaningful because it came two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the original Emancipation Proclamation. The Proclamation legally freed slaves, but though it went into effect on January 1st, 1863, it was seldom enforced throughout Texas. With an insignificant presence of Union troops in the state, there weren’t enough officials to carry out the order, so many Black people remained enslaved for an additional two and a half years.

See More: 25+ Ways to Advocate for Racial Justice Locally

When General Lee surrendered and Mayor Granger’s Union troops arrived in Galveston, the Union finally had enough influence to overthrow the Confederate resistance and enact the Executive Order.

One of General Granger’s first orders reads:

The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”

This day in history June 19th, 1865 — is now commemorated throughout the United States as the official end of slavery. 

When Did Juneteenth Become a National Holiday?

It hasn’t yet. Juneteenth is recognized by some municipalities and states throughout the United States — in fact, 47 out of 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia — but is still not recognized officially as a national holiday.

The proclamation of Juneteenth as a national holiday has been a long time coming. Given the recent climate and momentum in the U.S., it seems likely that Juneteenth could become a national holiday sometime soon.

Which States Celebrate Juneteenth?

In 1980, Texas proclaimed Juneteenth a state holiday, which caused many other states throughout the U.S. to follow suit. The only three states that do not recognize Juneteenth in some capacity — whether state-wide or as a ceremonial holiday — are Hawaii, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Locally, on Wednesday, June 17th, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an Executive Order to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday for state employees. Governor Cuomo also revealed on Twitter his plans to advance legislation making it an official holiday in NY come 2021. Similarly, the day before, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced his campaign to make it a state holiday.

In New Jersey, Passaic also recently made headlines for making strides to more significantly commemorate Juneteenth. According to NorthJersey.com, Passaic Mayor Hector Lora announced city offices will close in observation of the day. Lora officially proclaimed June 19th as Juneteenth Day in the city of Passaic last year.

However, as we stated earlier, this Juneteenth comes on the heels of many tragedies throughout the country and U.S. history, and that cannot be forgotten.

“Although Juneteenth is a day of celebration, it truly is a sad day when you internalize what it marks in American history; giving human beings their freedom,” Tee of Suite Tee Beauty Studio in Jersey City explains. “People that were enslaved because of the color of their skin, because they were considered inferior and less than. Those humans were beaten and abused, they were responsible for building colleges and other notable infrastructure, they raised children that were not theirs all while being stripped away from their own children and so much more tragedy.”

Tee adds, “Now, 150 years later, the descendants of these people are still fighting the war against racism in this country. Although it is a celebration… this is no party. There is still work to be done and Juneteenth should be a day of reflection for us all.”

How to Support Juneteenth

The goal behind Juneteenth is to remember the history of the day, support Black businesses, and fight racism.

“Promote and encourage the people of your community to support the Black businesses in your area. Give your children a history lesson about why this day is so widely celebrated and continue to teach them about the many great contributions Black people have made to the United States,” Shakera of Dessert Pixie Treats + Parties in Jersey City says. “Learn ways you can fight racism in a real way and insert that into your daily life.”

You can support Juneteenth by pledging to only shop at Black-owned businesses for the entire day of June 19th.

“Our mission is to come together to celebrate our freedom, our ancestors, our culture, and to empower our community of Black entrepreneurs and business owners here in our city,” explains Keeley of Secur, a women’s boutique in Jersey City. “Our ultimate call to action is a three-part series we curated called the Black Owners Initiative. We have organized a rally to discuss the disparities Black business owners face and how systematic racism affects our progression.”

Some local Black-owned businesses you may want to support include Aku Frika—African fabric clothing and homemade shea butter—the Jersey City-based Banana Pudding King, Double Dough, Everlast gym in Hoboken, and more.

See More: A List of Black-Owned Businesses to Support in Hoboken + Jersey City

Keeley continues, “We are also asking everyone to intentionally spend their day shopping with Black-owned businesses and seeing the importance of supporting these businesses. When you support these businesses you support employment, homeownership, tuition, and the creation of generational wealth.”

Be sure to check out our full list of local, Black-owned businesses in Hudson County for more on where to shop June 19th.

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Stephanie Osmanski writes honest things about health, the planet, and being a woman. Her words have appeared on Business Insider, Parade, Eat This Not That, Dogster, Scary Mommy, Green Matters, Parents, Seventeen, Life & Style, InTouch Weekly, and more. Her articles have been syndicated on World Economic Forum, MSN, MSN UK, and MSN Canada. In her free time, Stephanie and her registered therapy dog, Koda, volunteer at local hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities.