Two Black men and one Black woman in all black clothes outside with raised fists

How Students Can Celebrate and Acknowledge Juneteenth

Juneteenth is a federal holiday all students should know about and celebrate. Here are the basics and some ideas for participating this June 19th.

As many college campuses work to increase their commitment to supporting diverse populations and empowering students to engage in social and racial activism, celebrating and honoring Juneteenth as a holiday is critical. A federal holiday in the United States and a commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States, Juneteenth holds major significance in the lives of Black Americans and the history of our country. Celebrations for Juneteenth are diverse and may include Black cultural celebrations, inspirational speeches and songs, marches and protests, and gatherings with family and friends. Despite the importance of this day, many still don’t understand the meaning of Juneteenth, how it came to be, or how to acknowledge the holiday. Let’s change that right now.

The history of Juneteenth

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, originated in Galveston, Texas, in 1865 when federal troops arrived to ensure all enslaved people be freed. This day came two and half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, declaring all states engaged in rebellion against the Union should be free. In 1979, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday that has been celebrated annually on June 19th across the world.

Juneteenth has taken on an entire new significance since it was officially recognized as a federal holiday in June 2021. In a nation that was founded on anti-Black violence and with the historical and present-day exploitation of Black Americans, the recognition of this day as a federal holiday represents the acknowledgment of America’s racist past and its commitment to ensuring the experiences of Black people are celebrated and honored.

Related: Timeline of Important Events in Black History

How to celebrate Juneteenth and support Black communities

For students who want to learn more about our nation’s history and expand their knowledge on Black history cultural celebrations, learning about Juneteenth is important. Here are six ways you can celebrate and acknowledge this important holiday.

Learn the full history

Given that the history and cultural significance of Juneteenth is rarely discussed in high school and college classes, students may have to learn about it outside the classroom. The summer months are a great time for reading and learning about history and culture. Here’s a list of fiction and nonfiction books focused on Juneteenth as well as freedom and equality for Black Americans. Visiting a museum focused on Black history and culture is another great avenue to learn more. Some may believe the emancipation of slavery symbolized the end of racism for Black Americans, but racism and discrimination remain very prevalent. In addition to learning about Juneteenth, it’s also important to learn about how contemporary racism manifests today.

Attend Juneteenth events

Juneteenth is a celebratory holiday, and many cities may celebrate and acknowledge the day with protests and marches, fairs, gatherings, and museum exhibits. With COVID-19 restrictions shifting or ending, many communities may be holding more in-person celebrations. Check your city’s event directory or local library to find local and free events you can attend. The National Museum of African American History & Culture also lists various virtual programs and events.

Listen to Black artists

June is also Black Music Month, and music is a great way to learn about and appreciate Black culture and history. If you have access to Spotify, check out popular playlists like “Black Lives Matter,” “Black Girl Magic,” and the “Black Power Mixtape.” Listening to Black artists on your preferred streaming platforms supports the musicians and their work. You can take it a step further by purchasing your favorite artists’ music or attending a concert.

Related: 5 Great Recommendations for Books by Black Authors

Support Black businesses

There’s a significant wealth and income gap among Black and White populations in the United States, with Black people having less access to wealth. Less access to wealth leads to economic insecurity and inhibits them from buying homes, starting and raising families, and paying off student loans. Today, Black women entrepreneurs are starting businesses at record rates, and supporting these businesses increases their access to generational wealth while revitalizing their communities. Unfortunately, Black businesses often face challenges in building visibility and revenue, but your support can increase their longevity. Some cities may offer fairs or markets exclusively for Black vendors to sell their products to the public, or you can check out this directory of Black businesses.

Volunteer at voter registration drives

Some of the first Juneteenth celebrations were political rallies. The right to vote has always been a sacred privilege in the Black community—and Black people’s ability to participate in the electoral process is still highly contested and controversial. With continued incidences of voter suppression, Black people are constantly feeling threatened and intimidated at voter polls. Getting involved with organizations like Rock the Vote and Fair Fight is a great way to spread awareness about voting rights.

Donate to social justice organizations

The US is not a post-racial society, and racism and discrimination still play a daily role in the lives of Black people. Social justice organizations that address inequities facing Black populations focus on issues pertaining to voting rights, police brutality, health care, and more. The Black Lives Matter Movement originated in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in 2013 and became a national movement and slogan to end policy brutality and amplify local and national dialogue around state-sanctioned violence. Similar organizations and movements are grassroots efforts that depend on funding from community members. This Juneteenth, consider donating to organizations that empower Black people.

Related: Increasing College Access for Underserved Students

Juneteenth is focused on celebrating Black culture, history, and life—but most importantly, it honors Black historical heroes who played a role in the emancipation of slavery. Students who learn about diverse histories have better interpersonal and communication skills and thus are more likely to be engaged in social activism and change. Over the past few years, the inhumane treatment of Black and Brown people has become more publicized, which has led to more people advocating for the humanity and protection of people of color. Juneteenth is a great time to renew your commitment to social justice and learn about diverse cultures.

Find more blogs and articles to keep learning about and celebrating your diverse peers in our College Diversity section.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Maliha

Maliha

High School Class of 2019

My college search began at CollegeXpress. Due to this helpful tool, I was able to gather a lot of information to guide my college planning decisions. Through CollegeXpress, I was also able to apply to several scholarships to help pay for my tuition. I would definitely recommend this website to anyone who wants to explore colleges and get more information from admission experts, counselors, and real students.

Asia Stockdale

Asia Stockdale

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me overcome a huge hurdle. Because of the small town I live in, I felt like I would never achieve more. I felt like I could never go beyond because of costs. I feared I wouldn’t be able to find scholarships. I had no idea of where to start. With CollegeXpress, I easily found scholarships—they came to me. It was a helper, and I was instantly matched with opportunities to go above and beyond educationally.

Rose Kearsley

Rose Kearsley

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has seriously helped me out a lot, especially when it comes to scholarships and studying for tests like the ACT. I also really love the financial help. It’s a little harder to pay because I live with a family of eight, so any help is appreciated. Thanks for this opportunity!

Lorena Bacallao

Lorena Bacallao

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress was the foundation of my college search process. Because of CollegeXpress, I was able to make a more informed and confident decision as to where it was best to pursue my higher education. I have recommended this website to fellow peers and for first-generation students like me. It’s a website I will continue to promote because of how simple it was to use and how many opportunities were offered to me at my fingertips!

Ariyane

Ariyane

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress really helped me by letting me know the colleges ratings and placements. They gave me accurate information on my colleges tuition rates and acceptance. They even let me know the ration between students and faculty and the diversity of the college. Overall they told me everything I needed and things I didnt even think I needed to know about my college and other colleges I applied for.

College Matches
X

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Stanford University

Stanford, CA

Emerson College

Boston, MA