Karen Morris-Priester, MD, anesthesiologist and Chair of LVHN's Multicultural Professional Development Group, reflects on Juneteenth, a holiday to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States.
Commemorating Juneteenth at LVHN and in Our Community
Juneteenth, also known as Black Independence Day, Freedom Day and Jubilee Day, is observed annually on June 19. Recently gaining widespread attention, it has been celebrated by African Americans since the 1800s. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania designated Juneteenth National Freedom Day in 2019, and the day became a federal holiday in 2021.
Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was signed on Jan. 1, 1863, this news did not reach the enslaved people in Texas for more than two years. On June 19, 1865, two months after the ending of the Civil War, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger of the Union Army arrived in Galveston, Texas, to read General Order #3 informing the remaining enslaved people in the Confederate States of America they were now free.
Juneteenth is a celebratory day across the nation for many African Americans. It is a time to gather with loved ones, honor cultural traditions of family, music, food and history – including the retelling of stories passed down from generations. These handed-down recollections of slavery from ancestors have been lost to many families. Fortunately, the Library of Congress’ collection, “Voices Remembering Slavery: Freed People Tell Their Stories,” captures the stories of 26 formerly enslaved people in their own voices. Listen to the full collection of stories.
We are proud that LVHN is joining many other organizations in celebration of this significant day for our African American colleagues and our nation. Locally, the Juneteenth Lehigh Valley celebrations commenced with flag raisings in Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton on June 12 and culminate with “A Celebration of Liberty,” a day-long event featuring music, arts, ethnic food and children’s activities at Steel Stacks in Bethlehem. LVHN is a proud sponsor of the Juneteenth Lehigh Valley event.