Juneteenth 2023: Celebrating Freedom

Juneteenth 2023: Celebrating Freedom

AT LEAST 28 U.S. STATES & the District of Columbia will legally recognize Juneteenth as a federal holiday on June 19, 2023.

By: Christen Bourgeois Date: June 12th, 2023
Scan QR code at bottom Left to learn more about #juneteenth
Caption: Celebrating Freedom at Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center, University of Washington, 2023.

What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth (June 19th), also known as “Freedom Day”, marks the day in 1865 when a group of enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, finally learned that they were free from the institution of slavery. This was almost two-and-a-half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation

As much as Juneteenth represents freedom, it also represents how emancipation was tragically delayed for enslaved people.

Today, we recognize Juneteenth as a transformational event in American history, a period when our nation moved closer toward the abstract notion of equality. That movement is worthy of celebration — for sake of the human lives it touched, and the promise it holds for the future.

Why is this Day Important?

Juneteenth has become the most prominent Emancipation Day holiday in the history of the United States. It is a chance to celebrate progress and continue the movement toward equality.

Originally observed by only three U.S. states as a federal holiday (Texas, Louisiana and California), Juneteenth is now recognized by more than half of U.S. states as a second Independence Day and Emancipation Day!

Juneteenth serves to remind us all that there is still much more work to be done in addressing the many systemic barriers that remain for our nation’s Black communities. Oppression is not safely in the past — it persists in the systems and structures that form our society and in the actions of people who are determined to preserve those systems. 


Juneteenth DOES NOT mark the signing of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation (which technically freed slaves in the rebelling Confederate states) — nor does it commemorate the December 1865 ratification of the 13th Amendment (which enshrined the end of slavery into the Constitution).

The Flag

The Juneteenth flag symbolizes history and freedom.

In 1997, activist Ben Haith, founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation (NJCF) created the flag with the help of several collaborators and Boston-based illustrator Lisa Jeanne Graf.

A bursting “new star” on the horizon — which represents A NEW FREEDOM, A NEW PEOPLE — and its red, white, and blue colors communicate that the American Slaves and their descendants were ALL AMERICANS.

Celebrate Outdoors

At the University of Washington, observing Juneteenth as a holiday provides our students and families, faculty, staff, trainees, visitors and others the opportunity to reflect and put advocacy into action!

Juneteenth (June 19th) is a FREE Discover Pass Day — one of the 12 days a year when a Discover Pass is not required to park on any land managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission (Parks), or the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

In Observance of Juneteenth, the following Seattle Parks and Recreation facilities will be OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

Please check schedules for updated hours and information:

Additionally, (some public facilities) will be CLOSED.
Please check schedules for closures:

Attend a FREE Event!

Virtual Events:

Local Events:

Know of a local or virtual JUNETEENTH event not listed above?
Get in touch: hiprccom@uw.edu.

Watch & Listen

Resources for Young Audiences:

Read & Reflect

 Resources for Beginner-level or Young Readers:

Resources for Middle School Readers:

Courtesy: UW Human Resources, UW Office of the President, National Museum of African American History & Culture | Smithsonian, PEW Research Center, Seattle Parks and Recreation