How do you celebrate Juneteenth? Here are three inspiring traditions to add to your holiday.

Man in a suit sitting in a church pew

Do you know the story of Juneteenth?

It’s the day news of freedom made it to the last enslaved people in America. It happened in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865 – more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

These freed men and women celebrated the anniversary the following year. And more and more local communities – in the state and then across the country – started to host annual celebrations.

Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021, bringing more awareness to today and what it represents. As senior pastor, civil rights leader, and Heal America co-chair Dr. DeForest Soaries put it, Juneteenth is an extension of the Fourth of July:  

Where Independence Day marks the proclamation of our national commitment to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” Juneteenth marks the emancipation that made this founding promise more real than any other act in American history. It shows that we have an incredible capacity to self-correct, righting the worst wrongs in our society. 

3 Juneteenth Traditions To Incorporate This Year

As you’re making plans with family, friends, and neighbors, here are three ways to join in the celebration this year.


Dr. Opal Lee is known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth”. Why? In part because of the fact she walked hundreds of miles to help make Juneteenth a national holiday.

At 96, she’s not done yet.

Every June she continues to walk 2.5 miles in different areas of the country, symbolizing the 2.5 years it took for Texas to hear the news of freedom.

You can walk alongside her. Learn more about her Fort Worth, TX event as well as options to bring the walk virtually to your community.


Food can be a bridge that connects us to one another in ways we may not have expected. It gives us opportunities to share stories that are central to our lives and reach new levels of understanding, inclusion, and belonging.

Red velvet cake plays a central role in connecting people to the story of Juneteenth. Want to dig in? Hear directly from Urban Specialists President and Heal America Co-Chair Antong Lucky and Café Momentum founder Chad Houser about what the dish represents.


Juneteenth is more than a holiday. It’s a movement.

Cooperation among people of different backgrounds and beliefs has fueled change throughout our history – from abolition to women’s suffrage to the civil rights movement. Working together across our differences is a hallmark of the progress we’ve made so far and the change we continue to advance.

Juneteenth invites all Americans to participate in that noble project.

That call to engage can take many shapes. Learn more about opportunities to work alongside local groups and community leaders across the country who are bringing America closer to its founding ideals.