On June 17, 2021, Juneteenth became the 11th holiday recognized by the federal government. The historical moment was over a century and a half in the making and remains the longest-running African American holiday.
First celebrated in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865, Juneteenth commemorates the moment tens of thousands of enslaved people first learned that they were free. Although emancipation wasn’t instantaneous, many newly freed Black people began communal festivities that would evolve into the jubilant observances we see today.
As celebrations, which span community-led discussions and demonstrations to people enjoying red food and beverages under the Juneteenth flag rife with deep meaning, get underway across the country, it’s important to remember and honor its rich significance. The holiday provides an opportunity for all Americans to center Black culture and the Black experience for a day in recognition of the depth and complexity of African American history and its implications for us all.
A number of resonant voices (from the past and present) have helped keep the holiday’s significance at the forefront. That’s why we’ve rounded up inspirational quotes to commemorate Juneteenth. Let these powerful messages inspire you to celebrate and amplify Black voices today and every day after.
The Best Quotes for Juneteenth 2022
- “Juneteenth may mark just one moment in the struggle for emancipation, but the holiday gives us an occasion to reflect on the profound contributions of enslaved Black Americans to the cause of human freedom.” —Jamelle Bouie
- “It’s an opportunity to both look back but to look ahead to make sure that that notion of freedom and the fragility of it is always protected and celebrated.” —Lonnie Bunch
- “Every Black person you meet is a miracle… We are valuable because of our humanity and declared valuable because our ancestors declared our worth when they fought for us to live.” —Brittany Packnett
- “What historical narrative are we willing to weave in order to remind people not only that we were here enduring the trials but that we stared the fang toothed wolves of injustice in the face and said ‘no more.’” —Travon Free
- “Even though the story has never been tidy, and Black folks have had to march and fight for every inch of our freedom, our story is nonetheless one of progress.” —Michelle Obama
- “Every year we must remind successive generations that this event triggered a series of events that one by one defines the challenges and responsibilities of successive generations. That’s why we need this holiday.” —Al Edwards
- “Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.” —Toni Morrison
- “Words of Emancipation didn’t arrive until the middle of June so they called it Juneteenth. So that was it, the night of Juneteenth celebration, his mind went on. The celebration of a gaudy illusion.” —Ralph Ellison
- “Struggle is a never ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation.” —Coretta Scott King
- “I think Juneteenth feels a little different now. It’s an opportunity for folks to kind of catch their breath about what has been this incredible pace of change and shifting that we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks.” —Mark Anthony Neal
- “Understanding history is one of many ways to break the cycle. Lift up/amplify Black voices. Support Black owned businesses. Reach back. Mentor.” —Chadwick Boseman
- “The day we were free—everyone was free. Why not make it a paid holiday? We deserve that…We want a day that is inclusive to everyone.” —Pharrell Williams
- “There’s no other race, to me, that has such a tough history for hundreds and hundreds of years, and only the strong survive, so we were the strongest and the most mentally tough, and I’m really proud to wear this color every single day of my life.”—Serena Williams
- “Freedom is not something that one people can bestow on another as a gift. They claim it as their own and none can keep it from them.” —Kwame Nkruma
- “If there is just about anything to rejoice it can be my ancestors, African People who survived the atrocity and stain of slavery… I honor them these days with a guarantee that I will keep on to combat for your unexplored desires and hopes.” —Viola Davis
- “Today on Juneteenth, the day we celebrate the end of slavery, the day we memorialize those who offered us hope for the future and the day when we renew our commitment to the struggle for freedom.” —Angela Davis
- “The proclamation notes that freedom shall not be repressed. This is what I believe to be the primary significance of Juneteenth.” —Theodorea Regina Berry
- “I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free… so other people would be also free.” —Rosa Parks
- “We never got the 40 acres. We went all the way to Herbert Hoover, and we never got the 40 acres. We didn’t get the mule. So we decided we’d ride this donkey as far as it would take us.” —Rev. Al Sharpton
- “Every June 19th is an opportunity for us to continue the momentum of memory, and the parade and the self-determination movements.” —Dr. Greg Carr
- “Whether it’s freedom to express, freedom to live, freedom to earn, freedom to thrive, freedom to learn, whatever it is, I want to make sure that I’m a part of these spaces and opening doors.”—Angela Rye
- “We have suffered discrimination. We have suffered isolation and undermining. But we stand up for America, oftentimes when others who think they are more patriotic, who say they are more patriotic, do not.” —Maxine Waters
- “If the cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. Because the goal of America is freedom, abused and scorned tho’ we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.” —Martin Luther King Jr.
- “We Black folk, our history, and our present being are a mirror of all the manifold experiences of America… If we Black folk perish, America will perish.” —Richard Wright
- “Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory or an acceptance of the way things are. It’s a celebration of progress. It’s an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, change is possible—and there is still so much work to do.” —Barack Obama
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