On this day in 1865, Union General Gordon Granger traveled to Galveston, Texas to announce that all enslaved African Americans had been freed (What is Juneteenth, Gates). As a result, Juneteenth marks the emancipation of slavery across the United States and the celebration of freedom across generations.
Many take this day to acknowledge the hardship and contributions of African American communities by showcasing art, spoken word, and celebrations. “It is powerful to know that my people created a space called Juneteenth to ensure that generations to come would know, believe and embrace the fact that we are not our circumstances,” says Emma E. Houston, Director of the Salt Lake County Mayor’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion and MLK Commission Chair, noting that, “Today’s key players are individuals who continue to share the vision that regardless of how we were brought to this country, we will continue to remind others and be reminded that we are a mighty people with a goodly heritage.”
Governor Gary R. Herbert signed Juneteeth into observance as an official holiday in 2016 to be celebrated on the third Saturday of June (whereas it is celebrated nationally on the 19th). This marked an effort to educate and build solidarity across communities through events such as the Utah Juneteenth Freedom & Heritage Festival in Ogden, Utah. More so, this day is a time for reflection and serves as a reminder to be more sensitive to the experiences of others in order to find opportunities to connect. Executive director and founder of the Utah African American Chamber of Commerce, James Jackson III, affirmed that “when we are all given the same opportunity to contribute, our community is elevated.” Concerning the future of Juneteenth in Utah, he says, “ …I look forward to seeing the celebration of this holiday expand and grow to become more significant to the entire Utah community.”
Cover Photo credit: Unsplash