Salt Lake City leaders raised the Juneteenth flag on Tuesday to kick off the city’s observance of the holiday, which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.
2022 is the first year Juneteenth, which takes place on June 19, is being celebrated as an official holiday in the state of Utah. The Legislature passed a bill making that change earlier this year, joining several other states making the same move.
All states now recognize Juneteenth in some way, but it’s less common to give state workers the day off, as Utah does, according to The Associated Press. That second number is likely to grow over the next few years after President Joe Biden declared Juneteenth to be an official federal holiday last year.
“Today, we consecrate Juneteenth for what it ought to be, what it must be: a national holiday,” Biden said on June 17, 2021.
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth, which is also known as Juneteenth Independence Day, Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, commemorates the day in 1865 when Union soldiers told slaves in Galveston, Texas, that the Civil War had ended and slavery was abolished nationwide.
“Although the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in the South in 1863, it could not be enforced in many places until after the end of the Civil War in 1865,” The Associated Press reported.
Former slaves in Texas were the earliest champions of the holiday, and the holiday spread across the United States and around the world as these Black Americans moved elsewhere and passed down their traditions, the article noted.
How is Juneteenth celebrated?
Juneteenth celebrations come in many forms, but they often involve music and communal meals.
“For some, (Juneteenth) is eating barbecue, shooting fireworks, gathering at a cookout and sipping on red drinks, a tradition that symbolizes perseverance and honors the blood that was shed of African Americans. For others, it’s shopping only at Black-owned businesses, sharing history or resting at home,” The New York Times reported last year.
Juneteenth events often include a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation and some families put together their own trivia game using facts on Black history, the article noted.
Today, most Juneteenth celebrations are secular in nature, but, in the past, religious organizations often played a central role, The Associated Press reported.
“Celebrations used to revolve around the church with speeches and picnics,” according to the AP.
Who gets Juneteenth off work?
Biden’s designation of Juneteenth as a national holiday means that most federal workers now have the day off. The same is true for state employees in states like Utah that have declared Juneteenth to be an official holiday.
Many large companies, including Nike and Target, either give employees a paid day off on Juneteenth or up their hourly pay.
Since Juneteenth falls on a Sunday this year, workers in states and at companies that recognize the holiday will have Monday, June 20, off work this year.