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What is Juneteenth? Why and How to Celebrate

The holiday marks the end of slavery in the US

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On June 19th, 1865, nearly 250,000 slaves in Texas were freed. This was two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, but news didn’t travel fast — especially to plantation slaves in Texas. When Major General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, to announce the news and enforce the proclamation on June 19th, that date became the real date of freedom for many. To commemorate this day, Juneteenth celebrations began.

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Though this summer holiday is normally spent with groups of family members and friends, the coronavirus pandemic has put a halt to large group gatherings, parades and concerts. So what to do this year? Barbecues and cookouts can still happen, backyard picnics are still an option, and with social distancing measures in place, small gatherings to listen to live music might be an option as states slowly reopen.

Having a backyard picnic is a great way to incorporate Juneteenth traditions, just with a smaller group. Cook up foods like greens, brisket and perfectly grilled meats. Bake pastries like red velvet tea cakes and sip on red sodas.

Some towns are moving their celebrations online so be sure to check for virtual festivities to follow along with. At night, you can set up your backyard to look like a drive-in movie theater where you can watch a historical movie or one that celebrates black freedom and culture.

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Remember, if you are going to celebrate in small groups, follow coronavirus etiquette like wearing masks and standing 6 feet apart to prevent the spread of the virus. Looking for more ideas on how to spend the holiday this year? Here are 16 ways to celebrate Juneteenth at home.