Understanding Juneteenth: History, significance and upcoming celebrations at FIU
All are invited to learn about the national holiday and participate in a week of campus events
By Ethan Torres
Although Juneteenth is a fairly new federal holiday, its origins date back to the 19th century. In 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln. As it was written, the proclamation would guarantee freedom to all enslaved people.
It wasn’t until June 19, 1865, however - a full two years later - that a purported 2,000 federal troops arrived in Texas to finally enforce the end of slavery in the United States.
Because of the significance behind June 19, "Juneteenth" – a name that combines the words "June" and "nineteenth" – became a day of celebration. Juneteenth marks the long-awaited freedom of Black Americans after centuries of persecution, thus becoming a second independence day for citizens of the United States.
In spite of this, Juneteenth was not immediately federally recognized; it took another 156 years for that to happen. Juneteenth was officially recognized as a national holiday in 2021, the first since the establishing of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.
All the while, activists such as Opal Lee, known as the "Grandmother of Juneteenth," had been advocating for Juneteenth’s recognition. Ninety-year-old Lee walked more than 1,300 miles (in beat-up tennis shoes) from Fort Worth, Texas, to Washington, D.C., to promote her online petition, which ultimately received over 1.5 million signatures in support of naming an official holiday.
Juneteenth has been widely celebrated across communities for many years. In Florida, however, some people might celebrate their independence on a different day. May 20 recognizes the liberation of enslaved people in Florida when, in 1865, the Emancipation Proclamation was read aloud on the steps of the Knott House in Tallahassee to let Black Floridians know they had been freed. This day became known as Emancipation Day.
Whether you’re celebrating Juneteenth or Emancipation Day, festivities usually look similar: some folks prefer upbeat community gatherings, while others prefer to reflect deeply on the injustices faced by the Black community.
As part of FIU’s weeklong Juneteenth Celebration, the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is hosting the second annual Nova Star Juneteenth Scholarship Competition Show on June 10 at the Biscayne Bay Campus. Tickets are on sale now and will help fund student scholarships.
DEI is also offering its inaugural Nova Star Spoken Word Scholarship of $1000 and $500 to the respective first and second-place winners.
On June 17, FIU will host the third annual Freedom Day Celebrationfrom 1-5 p.m. in front of the Dotson Pavilion at MMC with food trucks, live music and vendors. The event is open to all.
View the full calendar of Juneteenth events.