Juneteenth, also known as Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, is a widely observed American holiday that celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. It commemorates the day on June 19, 1865, when federal troops arrived in Galveston, TX to let more than 250,000 enslaved African Americans know they had been freed.
Notably, this declaration was more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1983 in which Abraham Lincoln stated “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” However, the proclamation had limits and was not recognized in states under Confederate control during the Civil War. The full realization of the Proclamation depended upon the incontrovertible victory of the Union so freedom would be years away for many—including the enslaved people of Galveston, TX. In December of 1865, slavery was formally abolished in the United States with the ratification of the 13th Amendment.
Juneteenth celebrations are documented to have started as early as the following year in 1866 when formerly enslaved Texans commemorated their freedom with local celebrations, including parades, prayers, cookouts, readings, and musical performances. In 1872, a group of formerly enslaved people and their families pooled their money to buy ten acres of land in Houston, TX in order to have a space to properly celebrate Juneteenth. They named it Emancipation Park. It still exists today in the Third Ward neighborhood of Houston, TX and is the oldest park in Houston.
As people moved from Texas to other parts of the country over the years, Juneteenth celebrations spread widely. Today Juneteenth is a cherished holiday, observed with festive and reflective celebrations across the nation. Starting with Texas in 1979, states began recognizing June 19 as an official holiday. In 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bill officially declaring Juneteenth a new federal holiday. Observing Juneteenth is more than a way to honor an important date in history; it is a chance to celebrate the accomplishments of Black Americans, past and present and to raise awareness on the work that still must be done to achieve racial equity in this country.
This Juneteenth, Progyny wants to acknowledge how much work we as an organization must do combat racial inequality. We realize that we cannot just focus on helping members build their families for today. Our work must also create a fair and just future. Racial health disparities in fertility and maternal health continue and we are committed to identifying and closing gaps, all while supporting our staff, members, and employer partners on this journey. We are doing part of this work through our Social Justice Committee and Allies employee resource groups that inform our corporate strategy and solution. We continue to support our employees and members through dedicated training educational opportunities for our Member Services team and targeted member education to enhance benefit awareness and access to care.
This Juneteenth, we encourage you to reflect on this monumental day in American history and explore resources to learn more about the celebrations happening in your area.
We wish you all a safe and happy Juneteenth!
Other Resources to Explore
- Atlanta History Center, Juneteenth
- Essence, Juneteenth Events Happening Across The Country
- Lonely Planet, Where to Celebrate Juneteenth
- National Museum of African American History and Culture, Juneteenth: Celebration of Resilience
- New York Times, So You Want to Learn About Juneteenth?
- Travel and Leisure, Events to Celebrate Juneteenth Around the U.S.
- Vox, Juneteenth, Explained