reading time 2 min

Happy Juneteenth, folks!

I find many people get perplexed trying to explain what this holiday is. My advice? Keep it simple: Today we celebrate the end of slavery in the U.S.

That’s it. Simple and direct. “Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the U.S.”

Yes, there’s a complicated story and plenty more to tell about the holiday, but when explaining something very new to someone, it is best to start with the most high level, most simple, explanation before going into detail.

When explaining to someone verbally or in-person, I find it best to say the short version then pause for them to ask questions. This gives people time to digest what’s been said. They go from ignorant to “oh!” to “wait… now I have questions” in about 30 seconds. Give people that space.

So, what are the details?

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when the last group of people enslaved in the southern U.S. were informed of their freedom under the Emancipation Proclamation. President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation more than two years earlier, on Jan. 1, 1863, declaring that everyone held as a slave was, and would continue to be, free.

Slave owners in Texas illegally hid this information for 2 years. In June 1865 their enslaved workers were finally informed that they were free.

It became a federal holiday in 2021. The official name is Juneteenth National Independence Day. It was signed into law by President Biden. Banks and federal offices are closed, as on all federal holidays. Some employers (like mine!) give this day off. While this is a new federal holiday, it had been celebrated for decades in the black and brown community.

I give this advice because I’ve seen people get all tied up in themselves trying to explain it. “Oh, it’s the day that slaves were… I mean enslaved people were… uh… you see there was this… and Lincoln had… people from the north traveled to Texas to… umm…” Folks, just keep it simple: Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the U.S.

Tom Limoncelli

Tom Limoncelli

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