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What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is a holiday commemorating when more than 250,000 enslaved African Americans learned of their freedom on June 19, 1865. Although Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, slaveholders withheld the status of their freedom from the people they enslaved so they could continue to reap the benefits of their labor. 

As of 2021, Juneteenth is now recognized as a federal holiday, becoming the first federal holiday to be approved since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.

The fight for racial justice is an ongoing struggle. While we encourage you to use Juneteenth as a day of service, remember that efforts must be continuous in order for us to achieve the change that's needed. Racial injustice isn't just an issue for Black and African American people, it's a human rights issue that requires everyone to listen, learn, and help prevent.

While some cities and groups still plan to host celebrations and parades for Juneteenth, many people plan to use the holiday as a day of activism and participate in protests against racial injustice and police brutality. This year and every year, Juneteenth serves as a reminder that African Americans are still fighting against systems that prevent them from being completely free. 

Cleveland Hillel invites you to check out the links below to see more information about how you can observe, commemorate and celebrate Juneteenth 

1. Educate yourself, your children, and other people in your life by attending events (in-person or online) and read books and articles, subscribe to podcasts, etc.

2. Use your voice and your platform to raise awareness 

3. Donate to local grassroots organizations that are advocating for racial justice


4. Participate in a local Juneteenth celebration

5. Support Black owned businesses: 

  • Restaurants

  • Clothing sites/designers

  • Contractors

  • Consultants

  • Authors and artists

Juneteenth Resources and Events (online and/or in-person):


  • Learn more about Juneteenth from this Forward article titled, “Why Juneteenth – Which Marks The End Of Slavery – Should Be A Jewish Holiday.” Read the article here.

  • Audio / Podcasts:

  • “1619”: In August of 1619, a ship carrying more than 20 enslaved Africans arrived in the English colony of Virginia. America was not yet America, but this was the moment it began. No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the 250 years of slavery that followed. On the 400th anniversary of this fateful moment, it is time to tell the story. “1619” is a New York Times audio series hosted by Nikole Hannah-Jones (You can find more information about it here)

  • "The History and Meaning of Juneteenth": From the NYT “The Daily” podcast, hosted by Michael Barbaro (Listen here)

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