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Juneteenth at the OEC

Ohio Environmental Council, June 17, 2021

Juneteenth is an annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States and symbolizes Black American freedom and achievement. It is also known as “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day.”

On June 19th, 1865, Union General Gordan Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce that more than 250,000 enslaved Black people in the state were freed. This happened over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1st, 1863, and nearly a century after the Declaration of Independence of the United States was adopted on July 4th, 1776. 

The newly freed Black Americans rejoiced by praying, dancing, and gathering for community feasts. Since then, Juneteenth has been celebrated annually in various ways: family cookouts and family sporting events with food as an integral element, storytelling and religious services, and larger events like parades and festivals. Celebrations spread out of the South as millions of Black Americans moved to the upper east coast, the west, and especially to the Midwest during the Great Migration from the early to mid-20th century. 

The vast majority of states recognize Juneteenth as a holiday or have an official observance of the day, and most states hold celebrations. 2021 is the first year that Juneteenth will be a recognized holiday in Ohio. And just this week, the U.S. House voted to make Juneteenth the 12th federal holiday. The bill, designating June 19th as “Juneteenth National Independence Day” was signed by President Joe Biden into law. 

Here at the Ohio Environmental Council, we too will observe Juneteenth as a paid annual holiday for the first time in our organization’s more than 50 year history.

We encourage you to join our staff in honoring this important holiday, spending spend time to reflect, and advancing equity & justice in our communities and the environmental movement:

As we honor and celebrate Juneteenth in our communities across the state, we acknowledge that Black people are still not treated equally in America and we have significant work to do to eradicate systemic racism in our country and in the environmental movement.  At the OEC, we recognize that the right to breathe fresh air, drink clean water, and safely access nearby nature has been denied to people of color across Ohio and the country for far too long, and we must be part of the solution. We are committed to combating racism and its pervasive, dangerous impacts every day as well as actively working alongside our partners in the fight for an equitable future. 


Questions for reflection:

  • How will I celebrate honor or celebrate Juneteenth?
  • How is Juneteenth recognized in your community?
  • What can I do to be anti-racist and help dismantle the systemic oppression Black people face to this day?

Additional resources:

  • If you want to celebrate Juneteenth, you can attend virtual events or local in-person events, read a book by a Black author and listen to podcasts by Black creators.
  • Explore a Juneteenth conversation hosted by the League of Conservation Voters with Human Rights Watch on reparations, racial justice, and why the environmental movement is involved in this work.
  • Explore Juneteenth History
  • Check out Resources to Support Black Lives
  • Read “What is Juneteenth?
  • Explore this Handout from Racial Healing Handbook: Practical Activities to Help You Challenge Privilege, Confront Systemic Racism, and Engage in Collective Healing