On Friday, June 18, Buncombe County offices will be closed for Juneteenth (also known as Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day, and other names). We are excited to announce this additional holiday that Commissioners recently approved as it provides reverence to an historic day. In addition, pausing for the holiday will help raise awareness about the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.
Formally recognizing Juneteenth is also a major step in acknowledging diversity and inclusion gaps we are actively seeking to address. Equity is one of Buncombe County’s primary core values, and our Equity & Inclusion workgroup supports the addition of the Juneteenth holiday
Moving forward, the County will honor Juneteenth on the Friday that falls on or before June 19.
What is Juneteenth?
On June 19, 1865, nearly 2,000 Union Army troops arrived in Confederate-controlled Galveston, Texas and announced that by executive decree, more than 250,000 enslaved people were free. While the Emancipation Proclamation was signed more than two years earlier, many slave owners in Confederate territory didn’t comply, and enforcement was usually incumbent on Union troops. With that, the Juneteenth liberation of enslaved people in Galveston commemorates the day we celebrate the end of chattel slavery in the United States.
Juneteenth is much more nuanced than celebrating the freedom of enslaved people in the United States. The Center for the Study of Social Policy provides this explanation of why Juneteenth continues to evolve and is symbolic of a journey toward freedom: “Juneteenth asks us to consider the promises of freedom not yet fully realized in the United States. In the 1890s, Juneteenth celebrations included questions about the ‘broader implications for citizenship,’ and Black people strategized about how to secure voting rights and larger participation in the American political process. In 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s March—a demonstration about economic justice—held a Juneteenth celebration as a way to address poverty and freedom by examining the past. At the holiday’s core, Juneteenth has always recognized that freedom for Black people has been delayed by the continuing systemic and institutional oppression of Black people in America.”
We urge everyone to take a few moments to read the below ways to get involved and use the resources to learn more about this part of our country’s history.
How can I get involved on Juneteenth?
Buncombe County is excited and proud to sponsor this year’s Grindfest. The three-day Juneteenth event aims to bring people together while highlighting the progress made by people of color and connecting people across cultures. Honoring the 100-year anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre, this year’s theme of Black Wall Street celebrates local Black businesses and entrepreneurs.
Grindfest runs June 18-20 and features poetry, a marketplace, multiple performances, and culminates with a seafood boil and fish fry on Sunday. Check out the schedule, and learn more here.
What: Grindfest – A celebration of Black business and entrepreneurship
When: June 18-20
Where: Various locations in the River Arts District
Tickets: Get tickets here.
Additional resources to learn more about Juneteenth