Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19, marks the day in 1865 when enslaved Black communities in Texas, USA learned they’d be free – two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

Juneteenth marks the tragedy of enslavement and recognizes the challenges that those who fight injustice continue to face. Juneteenth also marks the full emancipation of African-American communities commemorating the humanity of a people.

The recognition of Juneteenth should also include commemorations of Emancipation Day which is celebrated on August 1 across Canada, the United States, the Caribbean and other former European colonies. In 1985, Trinidad and Tobago became the first country in the world to officially declare a national holiday to recognise the abolition of slavery.

In Canada, Ontario has been the only province to have passed legislation proclaiming August 1 as Emancipation Day. However, this year, 2021, marks the first year that Emancipation Day will be acknowledged federally in Canada on August 1. Emancipation Day is about honouring the past as well as reflecting on our present and preparing for the future.

Recognizing Emancipation Day is a step forward in recognizing African Canadian history as part of Canada’s story. A brief history of emancipation and Black settlement in Upper Canada, now Ontario, is included in this video:

Juneteenth and Emancipation Day commemorations invite us to re-examine prevailing conditions and remember why Black lives matter. Tracing current activism in anti-Black racism to the historic roots of slavery and segregation is essential to understanding generations of trauma. It is also in this consciousness-raising and fight for equality that we will prepare the next generation for success. In this effort, all students and staff communities in the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) are encouraged to engage in efforts that promote greater knowledge and recognition of and respect for the culture, history and heritage of people of African descent.

How to Get Started

This is what Juneteenth is all about | CBC Kids News
CBC Kids News explains the origins of Juneteenth in the US and how annual celebrations marking the end of slavery have been done in different places

In push for Emancipation Day declaration in Canada, Black community leaders say it’s an opportunity to examine what freedom and liberation mean today | Toronto Star
Toronto Star reviews the push to make Emancipation Day, August 1st, a federal holiday in Canada in recognition of the day that slavery was abolished throughout most British colonies in 1834.

Emancipation Day in Canada: Past, Present and Future | BC Black History Awareness Society
A review of how August 1 is important Canadian history in light of how the Slavery Abolition Act affected the lives of those enslaved and the lives of their descendants

Why This Canadian Declared Juneteenth An Annual Paid Company Holiday | Ross Simmonds
Ross Simmonds, an African Canadian marketing strategist and entrepreneur, revists why the history of slavery in the US is very much connected to Black experiences in Canada today

Juneteenth World Wide Celebration
This site explores the origins and history of Juneteenth, along with how to celebrate it in the workplace, community, and home.

Video: Maya Angelou’s “Hey Black Child,” recited by 3-yr old Pe’Tehn Raighn Kem