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Join us in celebrating Juneteenth. It’s an important time to honor the history and future of America.

Black Americans have celebrated Juneteenth for more than 150 years. This year, Juneteenth is being recognized as a state holiday for the first time with the Health Department and many workplaces closing on Monday, June 20, to offer a moment of reflection for the history of our country and the future we seek.

Juneteenth originated in Galveston, Texas in 1865 when the final group of enslaved people were freed on June 19. Although President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery in January 1863, not all states followed. 

Originally, the holiday, which was variously named Jubilee Day, Juneteenth, Emancipation Day, and Freedom Day, was widely celebrated. In the early 1900s, celebrations dwindled in part from Jim Crow laws that strengthened segregation. It’s important to highlight why we should all come back together and celebrate this momentous day for our nation. 

We honor Juneteenth

Juneteenth is American history.

We recognize Juneteenth as an important day in American history. It’s a holiday we should all honor as we work to move our country away from a system of slavery towards a unified nation that values us all. Juneteenth is the first established federal holiday since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 1983. That recognition is historic, and long overdue. 

For more than 150 years most of our country overlooked Juneteenth. Eventually, more lawmakers took steps to recognize the holiday and commemorate the painful past and long march to freedom for Black Americans. A day off gives us all a time to reflect on that past and acknowledge a period in history that still shapes and influences our society today. 

Racism as a public health crisis.

Racism is among the social, economic, and environmental factors that influences our health.  That’s because racist systems prevent Black and Brown Americans from equitably accessing healthcare, education, housing, and economic opportunity. 

To quote Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University, “The story of public health in America wouldn’t make any sense if you didn’t understand the story of race in America.” 

It’s the same right here at home. Not everyone in Pierce County has the opportunity to reach their full health potential. Black, Indigenous and other marginalized communities experience: 

  • Lower life expectancy. 
  • Poorer birth outcomes.
  • Higher rates of diabetes and other diseases. 
  • Greater involvement with the criminal justice system and incarceration.
  • More violence.
  • Lower voter participation and civic engagement.

Everyone should have a chance to achieve their fullest potential. We need racially equitable opportunities for all. 

In June 2020, Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health voted unanimously to declare racism a public health crisis. Together we tackle the complex issues of racism and inequitable institutions, structures, and systems where we live, learn, work, worship, and play. 

This work continues within our agency and with community partners. We care and we are committed to help bring about justice and healing. Learn more at tpchd.org/racialequity.

Celebrate Juneteenth in Pierce County.

This weekend you can celebrate Juneteenth at events throughout Pierce County:

We hope you will take the time to celebrate Juneteenth this year and every year, as an important part of American history.