Celebrating Juneteenth

Juneteenth has been acknowledged and celebrated in Texas as a time to commemorate when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and ensure freedom from slavery in 1865, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln granted freedom through the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. On June 19, 1865 enslaved Americans finally learned of their freedom from slavery and the date has since then been celebrated by many, and especially by Americans of African descent. In 2021, Juneteenth was made into a federal holiday to recognize this historic day that forever changed the future of the United States. People all over the country now recognize and can rejoice in such a significant time in this nation’s history and we hope that you do too.

Take Part in Juneteenth Celebrations

Marin City's 8th Annual Juneteenth Festival: Sat Jun 22nd 2024 @ 10amIf you’re looking for ways to celebrate this momentous day in our nation’s history, consider joining in on some events happening here in Marin County, like Marin City’s 8th Annual Juneteenth Festival, Downtown San Rafael’s Juneteenth in Downtown, or Mill Valley Recreation and City of Mill Valley’s second annual Juneteenth celebration, Freedom Festival. And when you attend those events, consider listening. Stephanie Hartwell-Mandella, Branch Manager of the Corte Madera Library, posed the following questions in a past blog: “​​Are people truly interested in doing the hard work, having the uncomfortable conversations, learning from and listening to the experience of others, learning more about ALL of our nation’s history…?” Attend some events, listen, and commemorate a day that truly deserves to be celebrated.

Celebrate with Color

Color symbolism within countries is often seen on flags, on the clothes and accessories of political candidates, for human rights campaigns, and in many other ways. We wear colors to show where we stand, what we believe in, what makes us happy, and to mourn. This Juneteenth, if you don’t celebrate at an event, or through food, consider wearing the color Red. The National Museum of African American History and Culture has information on the history of Juneteenth and includes a passage about the color red in connection with Juneteenth:

In fact, the roots of the symbolic efficacy of the color red can be traced to West Africa, where it has been associated with strength, spirituality, life, and death. Furthermore, culinary historians, trace the color to certain foods that traveled to the Americas along with the Africans during the trans-Atlantic slave trade, such as hibiscus and the kola nut.

So, this year at Juneteenth, as you take a long swallow from a cool drink of hibiscus iced tea, or red punch, remember the ancestors who sacrificed, remember the blood shed in the struggle, remember the collective strength of people of the African diaspora, and finally remember the spirituality and transcendent joy that enabled us to overcome.

- Kelly Navies, museum specialist and oral historian

Connect Through Food

The United States of America is a country that is home to many different cultures and ethnic backgrounds and we often learn about each other through traditional music, attire, and through food. This month, try connecting with this country’s past through food. Stephanie Hartwell-Mandella, Branch Manager of the Corte Madera Library, in her blog post, Juneteenth and Tea Cakes shares with us an anecdotal recollection of her grandmother, a recipe for her grandmother’s tea cakes, and a reflection on how “tea cakes, Juneteenth, and voter rights in Texas are connected to historical struggles, cultural heritage, and the fight for justice for African Americans in this country.” Bake some of these tea cakes this year, a food deeply rooted in African American tradition, and share them with your friends, family, and neighbors along with information about Juneteenth. We can all use some tea cakes in our lives and we can all be a little bit more informed about our country’s history.

Let us know how you decide to honor the past and let us know what you learn on Juneteenth. Wherever you go and whatever you do, bring your listening ears and an open heart, then permit yourself to understand. If you’re looking for some library resources, take a look at these book lists, specifically curated for Juneteenth education and celebration. Juneteenth is a day to celebrate freedom and the beauty and life of African Culture while understanding the history of this country’s past and the conflicts that we’re still challenged with today.

Contributed by Daniela Leyva