Why Do We Celebrate Juneteenth?

Diverse Voices: A Juneteenth Celebration 2023

Washington Revels and the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture are co-presenting a weeklong festival commemorating this Juneteenth holiday. The festival runs from June 17 to 25 and features live events every day!

Learn more about Diverse Voices

Juneteenth is a significant holiday celebrated in the United States on June 19th each year. It commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans and the end of slavery in the United States. With its roots in Texas, where news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached enslaved people in 1865, Juneteenth has evolved into a nationwide celebration of freedom and African American heritage.

What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, marks the day on June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3 in Galveston, Texas, freeing over 250,000 enslaved people. Although President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation over two years earlier, it was unenforceable in the Confederate States where the Union military presence was scant. Juneteenth now represents the moment when enslaved individuals in Texas learned of their freedom, and acts as a representative freedom date for the whole country.

What does the Juneteenth flag mean?

First designed by Ben Haith in 1997, the Juneteenth flag was refined by Lisa Jeanne Graf and revised in 2000 to its current official version. The flag features a central white star representing Texas, the freeing of Galveston’s enslaved people, and the freedom of African Americans in all 50 states. The star is surrounded by a nova-like burst representing a new beginning and the curve extending through the middle represents a horizon and the promise of new opportunities. Designed in the American flag’s signature red, white, and blue, the Juneteenth flag colors signify that all people freed in Texas were Americans. A second flag often used to commemorate Juneteenth is the tri-color Pan-African flag. Created in 1920 by members of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, its red stripe stands for the blood shed for liberation, the black stripe stands for the people affirmed by the flag, and the green stripe represents the growth and fertility of Africa. Both flags (pictured below) are considered symbols of pride and freedom for Black people.

Juneteenth falgs

Is Juneteenth only for African Americans?

Juneteenth commemorates a milestone in American history, one of the many pivotal events that shaped our country, with a legacy that affects our lives to the present day. The holiday serves as an opportunity for education, reflection, unity, and promoting understanding and inclusivity. Diverse Voices: A Juneteenth Celebration will present a variety of programs showing how the span of history from abolition to the Civil Rights Movement has shaped national and local history, our communities and culture. On June 20, a virtual event, “Voices of History and Hope: The Past and Future of Juneteenth in Montgomery County,” brings together a panel of local community leaders to describe how they are preserving African American history in Montgomery County–and how the national recognition of Juneteenth has affected their work.

To join the DMV’s first regional Juneteenth festival, Diverse Voices: A Juneteenth Celebration, visit https://revelsdc.org/juneteenth/ for a full list of in-person and virtual events.
Co-presented by
Washington Revels: Celebrating 40 Years
Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture
With program partners
Carpe Diem Arts
Montgomery History