Diversity Matters: Juneteenth

June 19, 2019  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources, ,

Celebrated annually on June 19, Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. The date represents the arrival of Union soldiers in Galveston, Texas in 1865 with news of the end of the Civil War and freedom for all who had been in bondage.

To better serve the patients, families and colleagues who recognize this important holiday, here’s what you may not know about Juneteenth:

A significant date

The significance of the holiday’s date grows upon closer inspection. June 19, 1865 was nearly two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, delivered by President Abraham Lincoln, declaring the end of slavery (Jan. 1, 1863).

For 900 days, African Americans toiled as slaves after the practice was declared illegal by the federal government. Additionally, they were not granted equal rights or privileges until 1964, another 99 years.

As word spread across the country, there was still confusion and hesitation for former slaves. Some found the courage to leave but were killed as they left their plantations, while others just wandered to find a place to settle.

The idea of celebrating the freedom day was far from a luxury as Jim Crow laws and the “separate but equal” legal principle was a cloud raining over the economic, educational and social advancement of African Americans for the next century.

For those that did celebrate, the church grounds were often a safe space due to white landowners interrupting gatherings on their land.

“For nearly a century after the slaves were freed, we as African Americans experienced so many setbacks and factors that still impact society today,” said Jennifer Williams, employee communication manager at Michigan Medicine. “That’s why it’s so important to recognize this holiday and all of the factors that have shaped the black culture.”

New freedom

After the Civil Rights movement in 1964, the idea of celebrating Juneteenth was revisited as many found inspiration in their new-found freedoms.

While many companies declined the idea of people taking June 19 off of work to celebrate, communities would hold small gatherings in their neighborhoods to honor the day.

In 1980, the state of Texas blazed a trail, as its legislature declared June 19 an official state holiday in celebration of Juneteenth. In 2005, Michigan became the 18th state to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday.

What does it mean now?

While it’s not a major holiday, Juneteenth is now widely celebrated across the United States.

Events such as symposiums, rallies, cook-outs and even parades take place in honor of the “Black Independence Day.”

Institutions such as the Smithsonian and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, have begun sponsoring Juneteenth-centered events. In Detroit, the Wright Museum of African-American History will host a special jazz concert in commemoration.

If patients request specific food items as part of their Juneteenth celebration, consult his or her registered dietitian nutritionist to see what can be offered at Michigan Medicine.

“While Juneteenth celebrates freedom and achievement, the black culture continues to honor those who did not have such freedoms by advancing in society and appreciating the history,” said Williams. “It’s beautiful to watch Juneteenth celebrations grow as awareness spreads over the years.”