Celebrating Juneteenth in New Jersey 2021

As of June 19th approaches, you may be wondering how to celebrate the holiday in New Jersey. As it’s the state’s first celebration of Juneteenth as a state holiday, you might be wondering how to celebrate Juneteenth in the Garden State best. Keep reading to learn more about the history of Juneteenth and how you can celebrate in 2021!

The History of Juneteenth

The enslavement of the African race is deeply embedded in American history. While America celebrates its freedom on Independence Day in July, this freedom did not extend to all those living in the country. 

Africans remained in slavery for over 80 years after America became independent from the British Empire. The start of the Civil War in 1861 marked a pivotal change in the fight for freedom, even as African American soldiers fought and died on both sides. 

The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by the president of the Union, Abraham Lincoln, in 1862 and took effect in 1863. However, it wasn’t until 1865 that the final remnants of the enslaved population in the US were actually freed. 

The majority of the 250,000-strong enslaved African Americans were living in Texas. Galveston, Texas, to be more specific. Nearly two and a half years had passed between the Emancipation Proclamation and the freedom of the enslaved individuals still residing in Texas. 

This time-lapse is a result of the ongoing conflict of the Civil War and the fact that Union soldiers weren’t present to enforce the Proclamation. As such, many remote plantation and slave owners weren’t subject to any consequences for continuing to own slaves. 

When Union Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Texas to command over 2,000 troops, he enforced the Proclamation. The date? June 19th, 1865, which would later be deemed Juneteenth. 

After being freed, African Americans in Texas celebrated Juneteenth as Jubilee Day. Unfortunately, many of these celebrations were not able to be held in public parks. That’s because many parks were segregated, and African Americans were not allowed their own parks. 

However, the celebrations were not to be stopped as Black Americans raised money to purchase their own land to celebrate. These celebrations often had political undertones, in which African Americans would be encouraged to vote. 

Juneteenth Today: A Celebrated Holiday

This year marks the 156th anniversary of Juneteenth and the true emancipation of the US’s slave population. Juneteenth is celebrated in states across the country, expanding greatly from its roots in a small Texas town.

In the late eighties and nineties, the movement to expand the celebration of Juneteenth boomed. Today it’s recognized on several major calendars and is considered a formal holiday. In fact, most states, barring North Dakota, South Dakota, and Hawaii, have declared Juneteenth a holiday. In 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a law declaring the third Friday in June a state holiday celebrating Juneteenth

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Juneteenth celebrations across the country fell victim to closures and cancellations. As the tradition is to gather and celebrate, most Juneteenth parades, festivals, and other celebrations didn’t lend themselves to social distancing requirements, even if they were outdoors.

It can be challenging to know how to celebrate Juneteenth in 2021, especially after a year of uncertainty and restrictions. As the CDC’s guidelines are updated to reflect the protections granted by the vaccine, those who celebrate Juneteenth must decide how to celebrate responsibly. 

In many cases, you’ll find the Juneteenth is celebrated as an event, rather than just a parade. For example, many parks host Juneteenth celebrates where Black vendors sell products and foods that celebrate Black Americans. You’ll find stalls selling anything from organic cocoa butter to mouth-watering soul food dishes. 

How to Celebrate Juneteenth in 2021

Have your own Juneteenth celebration. Staying safe is still of great importance. That said, it’s easiest to stay safe by staying home and celebrating with a small group of individuals. Cook Black recipes that celebrate African heritage and Black American culture. Read up on Juneteenth and African American history. Create your own traditions that celebrate your heritage.

If you’re looking for a larger event, you should visit a local Juneteenth parade. Most major cities have at least one Juneteenth celebratory parade. Check local Facebook pages, hyper-local Reddit subs, and your local Next-door page to discover what Juneteenth celebrations are happening near you. That said, if you’re looking for someplace to celebrate in New Jersey, check out these local Juneteenth hotspots. 

  • Floods Hill in South Orange will be hosting a Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, June 19, 2021, from 6:00 pm – 9:30 pm.
  • The Sankofa Heritage Collective of Morris County is hosting the 8th annual Juneteenth Celebration in partnership with the County College of Morris featuring a family-friendly day of music, activities, and special guest speakers happening on Saturday, June 19th from 11 AM-2 PM.
  • The Perkins Center for the Arts in Moorestown, New Jersey, will be hosting a Juneteenth celebration from 10 am-2 pm on June 19th with live music, vendors, historians, and artists.
  • Middlesex County will host a Juneteenth celebration on June 19th. Additional celebrations include a mural painting even on the 16th and 17th of June in New Brunswick.
  • Morristown’s ATA presents Into The Light, the 29th Annual Exhibition and Sale of Black Fine Art Juneteenth (19th) to October 22, 2021 View the exhibit virtually

Key Takeaways

Juneteenth is an important holiday for African Americans across the country. That said, if you’re showing your pride this year, it’s important to stay safe. Moreover, it’s important to connect with the history that the holiday celebrates. Happy Juneteenth!

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