Black people’s gatherings are known for the display of clothing that communicates ideologies and Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day, is no exception.
The American holiday memorializes June 19, 1865, the day when the freedom of the African American slaves throughout Confederacy was proclaimed. To date, it is celebrated in 46 states as a means of unifying the community. The states of Montana, Hawaii, North Dakota, and South Dakota do not acknowledge Juneteenth as an official holiday.
The celebration of Juneteenth revolves heavily around clothing, but it is not simply fashion for style’s sake.
Juneteenth fashion doesn’t only represent the Black people’s freedom of expression through clothing – a privilege that their enslaved ancestors never had – but it also a way of restoring their socio-political rights.
The observance of Juneteenth varies on the person you talk to and where they live. Juneteenth in the American Southwest involves rodeos, cookouts, and church gatherings. In other states, Juneteenth is celebrated with concerts, big parades, and pageants. But the most notable during celebrations are clothes.
A quick Google search will give you a glimpse of the creative skill of the Black People in the celebration of their emancipation.
Clothing is among the most neglected detail of slavery. And though it was required in some states for slave owners to provide clothing to their slaves, they did so without consideration for the latter’s comfort. They were not allowed to wear clothes that were “of greater value than negro cloth”. Their clothing was a badge of their slavery.
During the first celebrations of Juneteenth, the freed slaves tossed their ragged garments away as a symbol of casting away their former status.
Since then, the custom during Juneteenth celebrations was to wear your best dress in honor of the emancipated slaves who were forced to wear clothes against their choice. The common theme is to wear anything in red, white, or blue to emphasize that Independence Day is celebrated. Some choose to represent the Pan-African flag by wearing the colors red, black, and green.
Whether or not you choose to represent these colors during Juneteenth, what’s important is to appreciate and celebrate the legacies of the Black Americans who are the cornerstone of the country. Though slavery is a thing of the past, racial issues still divide us today. Hence it is necessary to celebrate traditions that unite us in any way.