Celebrate Juneteenth with facts, not falsehoods


Today NLP recognizes and celebrates Juneteenth, which became an official U.S. holiday in 2021. The designation commemorates the events of June 19, 1865, when federal troops freed the last of our nation’s enslaved people, who were being held by the Confederacy in Galveston, Texas.

More than two and a half years earlier, on Jan. 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all of those enslaved in the U.S. But news of freedom alone did not equal liberation. For those enslaved in Galveston, it finally arrived when Union troops defeated the Confederacy there in June 1865, more than two months after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to the Union Army, ending the Civil War.

Also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration marking the end of slaveryin the U.S. The National Museum of African American History & Culture declares it “our country’s second independence day” and notes that its enduring legacy indicates “the value of never giving up hope in uncertain times.”

Myths and misinformation

As with any important day in U.S. history, misinformation about Juneteenth abounds. One common misperception is that enslaved people were unaware that the Emancipation Proclamation had freed them in 1863. Alexa Volland, NLP’s senior manager of multimedia content, clears things up in this short video. To steer clear of misinformation about Juneteenth, seek out standards-based sources and don’t assume everything you see about the holiday — especially posts on social media that trigger strong emotional reactions— is credible.

We encourage you to join the News Literacy Project in celebrating Juneteenth and learning more about its history and meaning. This Smithsonian piece is a good place to start, and this New York Times interactive article from 2020 puts Juneteenth in perspective. For those marking the holiday for the first time, the Associated Press published this guidanceyesterday.

For more on the Juneteenth holiday, check out our Flipboard collection of articles and resources.

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