June 19, or Juneteenth, is the nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

When did Juneteenth become a federal holiday?

Although recorded celebrations of Juneteenth happened as early as 1866, it was first recognized as a federal holiday in 2021 by President Joe Biden. He signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law on June 17, 2021, and it went into effect immediately.

The original Emancipation Day took place on June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas — the first state to then designate Juneteenth as a holiday in 1980. Eventually, the other 49 states and the District of Columbia started to recognize June 19 as the formalized day of freedom.

Why does Juneteenth matter?

While the historical significance of Juneteenth has not diminished over the years, following civil unrest in the summer of 2020, lawmakers and advocates felt the urgency to bring the emancipation back to the forefront of society. Since that time — and since becoming a federal holiday — employers, communities, schools and religious groups have rallied around the meaning and importance to African American culture and the American historical landscape.

 At a time when few in the political sphere can agree on anything, the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, which originated as a bill, had the bipartisan support of 60 lawmakers. The energy shown at the state house has sparked activism and education throughout communities in America, showing the need for equity, justice and remembrance.

Support in your neighborhood

Heart of Iowa Community Services (HICS) has long-supported marginalized communities, whether they face challenges related to ability, ethnicity, sexual orientation or income status. Straight from our core values, HICS believes:

  • All community members are deserving of the same rights and freedoms.
  • We respect our community members regardless of belief or background.
  • Each person deserves the opportunity to lead a healthy, productive life.
  • We are a provider of high-quality care, and support others who work alongside us.
  • Circumstance and occupation should never be limited outside of natural limits.
  • We have a responsibility to each other to encourage a mutually beneficial future.

Individuals and families from all walks of life have come to recognize HICS as an organization that exists to help others in the struggles they may be facing in life. Through mental health support, jail alternative programs, disability support, crisis responses and so much more, Heart of Iowa understands that each person tells a unique story of a life lived. To learn more about HICS and the services it coordinates for residents of Audubon, Dallas and Guthrie counties, visit HICSIowa.org or call 515-993-5869.

Ideas to celebrate Juneteenth

Juneteenth.com offers a wide variety of resources related to the holiday, including historical context, promotional items and ways to celebrate Juneteenth. A few ideas in different settings include:

  • In the workplace: Discuss diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives within your company and ask employees how they could be improved. Different generations of employees may have very different thoughts on this!
  • In the workplace: Bring in a guest speaker to share the history and significance of Juneteenth, along with ways to support the African American community where you work.
  • In the community: Support Black-owned businesses and organizations (throughout the year).
  • In the community: Organize neighborhood block parties and invite local elected leaders and guest speakers to attend. Make it fun with events for kids, dancing, music and food.
  • In the home: Plan a special meal and decorate the table in a Juneteenth theme. Take time to explain to all family members what you’re doing and why.
  • In the home: Take some time to reflect on the historical events — past and recent — that have brought Juneteenth to the forefront. Make a plan as to how you can support the Black community all year long.