June 19 marks a now nationally recognized holiday in the U.S.–Juneteenth. The holiday commemorates the official end for slavery in the United States, when news of former President Abraham Lincoln’s “Emancipation Proclamation” finally reached Texas years after it was first issued. Celebrations began on June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas.
Contemporary Black activists, politicians, and allies fought for decades to raise national awareness surrounding the historical significance of the holiday. As of 2021, President Joe Biden designated Juneteenth a federal holiday after Congress passed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act.
This Juneteenth, we remember that the promise of America is that we're all created equal.
And my promise to you is that I'll never walk away from that.
Let's move forward, together. pic.twitter.com/MenzRNrXQJ
— President Biden (@POTUS) June 19, 2023
Many celebrities and political figures are using their platforms to amplify how crucial this holiday is. Acclaimed actress and television host Oprah Winfrey began an interview series in honor of Juneteenth in 2021, titled “Lift Every Voice.” Patti LaBelle, Joyce Walker-Joseph, and 50 other guests were a part of the series. The interviews were conducted by a team of Black journalists, many from historically Black colleges and universities.
Famed singer-songwriter Lizzo has remained at the forefront of Juneteenth celebrations throughout her career in music. Lizzo was raised in Houston, Texas, and has long celebrated the holiday as a local tradition before it was brought to national attention. Each year, the Grammy winner contributes to Black-owned businesses and finds new ways to support the community. This year, Lizzo is inviting fans to donate money to several charitable organizations focused on Black education, Black transgender women, and Black musicians. The lucky raffle winner will have the opportunity to travel to Japan and see Lizzo perform.
This year for my Juneteenth GiveBack I’m giving 50,000$ a day to black led organizations & businesses.
This year we shine a spotlight on our Trans family— because we ain’t free until we all free.
— FOLLOW @YITTY (@lizzo) June 19, 2023
The fundraiser, which includes the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, comes at a pivotal time for LGBTQ+ rights. This Pride Month, several states continue to pass legislation banning drag performers, and gender-affirming healthcare for minors.
Former President Barack Obama, who served as the first Black president in U.S. History, has also been vocal in commemorating Juneteenth. Both Obama and actress Lupita Nyong’o paid tribute to Opal Lee, known as the Grandmother of Juneteenth. Lee earned the unofficial title due to her long involvement in pushing the Senate to pass the bill that made the historical date a federal holiday.
Meet Opal Lee, the 94-year-old activist who marched for miles to make Juneteenth a federal holiday
She began a 1,400-mile trek in 2016 from her home in Fort Worth to Washington, D.C., to ask President Barack Obama to recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday. pic.twitter.com/KnQ4Umlqhe
— Women Talk Black (@WomenTalkBlack1) June 19, 2021
1. This is Opal Lee, the force behind the movement to make #Juneteenth a national holiday. Also known as Freedom Day, it is the day that commemorates when slavery officially ended in the USA. At 93, Mrs. Lee keeps banging the drum for the recognition of this day. pic.twitter.com/qrs9im0YWl
— Lupita Nyong'o (@Lupita_Nyongo) June 19, 2020
Actress Laverne Cox has been known to encourage attending local Juneteenth events on her social media and even attended herself. Resources including the Why Not You Foundation allow for social media users to discover Juneteenth events happening near them. Cox spoke to ET regarding her feelings surrounding the holiday, “Juneteenth is about freedom. It is about emancipation. And I think that for a long time, for black people in this country, that was symbolic,” said Cox.
“Yes, we were freed, but then Jim Crow happened, and then mass incarceration happened. It has been a fraught battle, so it is always a tempered kind of celebration for me when I think about that. But when I think about the overwhelming support for Black Lives Matter that we did not have six years ago when Black Lives Matter began, I’m heartened and I am hopeful that we can turn the tide.”
Meanwhile, Beyoncé is currently on her “Renaissance” world tour in Europe. The singer wore outfits designed by exclusively Black designers on stage in honor of Juneteenth.
All the custom couture designed exclusively by Black designers, worn by Beyoncé to honor Juneteenth at the Renaissance World Tour last night, styled by Shiona Turini and Julia Sarr-Jamois [thread] pic.twitter.com/l19J9F4mxc
— BEY-Z???? ⊚ Fan Account (@beyzhive) June 19, 2023
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Several other celebrities, including Taylor Swift, have acknowledged the holiday throughout the past few years. Swift shared a video from the Root about the history of the holiday, and announced that she would be giving her whole team the day off indefinitely in honor of Juneteenth. She additionally encouraged fans to continue to educate themselves on Black history.
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Across the internet, Black social media users continue to encourage people to keep learning today, and to pour support into their local Black communities. Tennessee Representative for District 86, Justin J. Pearson, reminded the internet that there is still progress to made on the front of equity.
— Justin J. Pearson (@Justinjpearson) June 19, 2023
I definitely can't forget MY city, Washington, DC! (Although this was on the Maryland side). I had such a great time. The people, the music, the food and BlackOwned businesses were outstanding. Our festivals are always ????#Juneteenth #Juneteenth2023 #DMV#BlackAmericanCulture pic.twitter.com/1ZWmiJSwIF
— Unapologetically Black & Positive (@KimWrites4U) June 19, 2023
Nationwide, the Black community and allies are invited to wear black, red and green, uplift Black voices, read Black authors and listen to Black artists today.