Follow our coverage of the Bay Area's Juneteenth marches, protests and celebrations here.
Every year on June 19, Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States in 1865 — and this year, the date carries a historic intensity.
In 2020, Juneteenth celebrations of Black pride, history and resilience come after weeks of continuing widespread protests against the killing of Black people by police. Not only that, it's against a backdrop of a global pandemic that has been proven to affect Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) disproportionately, and altered many people's daily lives and experience of community beyond recognition.
Juneteenth may look (and feel) different in many ways this year, but the Bay Area is still honoring the significance, weight and joyousness of this date with celebrations, protests and socially-distanced virtual events.
- Who gets Juneteenth as a holiday?
- Virtual and IRL Juneteenth events around the Bay Area
- COVID-19 safety tips for honoring Juneteenth in person
The Meaning of Juneteenth
Juneteenth is also referred to by some as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day. Taking its name from "June" and "nineteenth," Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 that enslaved people in Texas finally learned they were free, and that the Civil War had ended. Union solders in Galveston, Texas delivered this message an incredible two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863. Let's just say there are several theories around this delay.
The name of Juneteenth was invoked on the political stage last week, when President Donald Trump announced his decision to hold a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 19. In 1921, Tulsa was the site of a race massacre in which white antagonists killed hundreds of Black residents, and destroyed their homes and businesses. Trump's choice of location and date outraged many as either a gross insensitivity or a deliberate provocation. The rally was later moved to the day after Juneteenth.
The Bay Area has honored Juneteenth with community celebrations and public gatherings for decades. San Francisco's Juneteenth Celebration has traditionally been one of the largest gatherings of African Americans in California every year. And in the East Bay, thousands of people come together each year for Berkeley’s annual Juneteenth Festival.
This week's episode of our Bay Curious podcast speaks to Delores Nochi Cooper, who's organized Berkeley's Juneteeth event for over 30 years: read and hear the story here. This past episode of KQED's The Bay podcast also explores the life and legacy of Rachel Townsend, the Oakland-raised activist who fought to keep Juneteenth in San Francisco despite the city's shrinking Black population, before her death from a sudden illness in 2018.
While almost every U.S. state recognizes Juneteenth as a ceremonial holiday — including California, since 2003 — that doesn't mean residents get Juneteenth as a paid day off. Only Texas made Juneteenth a paid state holiday, in 1980, but Virginia's governor moved to follow its lead this week by declaring Friday an official holiday. That move only gives state employees a paid day off, but companies are encouraged to follow suit. California shows no signs of designating Juneteenth a state holiday... yet.