Home / News

7 Things Every American Should Know About Juneteenth


juneteenthThe YMCA has a deep, rich history with the African American community. The first YMCA for African Americans was founded in 1853 in Washington, D.C. by formerly enslaved Anthony Bowen. And in the following decade, Black YMCAs arose in New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia. As a result, the national office of YMCAs created a department to oversee Black YMCAs. The YMCA of Greater Cincinnati even hosted the National Colored Work Conference in 1921, a place for the Black community to organize a response to their unjust housing and compensation. To this day, the YMCA is proud to serve Black communities throughout the country.

1.  Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. It is celebrated on June 19th of every year.

2. Enslaved African American Texans did not know about their freedom until two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which became official on January 1, 1863.

3. There are many theories as to how and why the news of liberation was withheld from Texan slaves. According to Juneteenth.com, many historians believe President Lincoln’s authority wasn’t well-received or respected by Texan slave owners, who were staunch supporters of the then defeated Confederate Army. In consequence, these slave owners refused to recognize their slaves as free men and women and continued overseeing them as property and free laborers for more than two years in harsh and inhumane conditions.

4. Once freed slaves learned of the news, reactions ranged from overwhelming shock to jubilation. Many free men and women began their journey to the North to find separated family members and establish their lives, while others planted roots in Texas as recognized citizens.

5. Juneteenth is celebrated in Texas, nationally and worldwide. The day is one of reflection, renewal and pride. Parades, festivals and church services are organized to commemorate and respect the sufferings of slavery and the progress made by African Americans to U.S. history.

6. Juneteenth has its own flag. Designer L.J. Graf created the flag with a star in the middle nestled on a horizon among red and blue fields to represent a new freedom and a new people.

7. Texas was the first state to declare Juneteenth a holiday in 1980. Many other states followed suit soon after.