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Loving Day and Juneteenth

A photo of Mildred and Richard Loving alongside an illustration of a chain transforming into flying birds in the sunset

June is a month of celebrations. From Pride to graduations to the start of summer, we have lots to celebrate this month. There are two very special days in June that have previously been overlooked, but have been gaining attention in recent years: Loving Day and Juneteenth.

Loving Day is an annual celebration held on June 12 to commemorate the 1967 United States Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia. This case struck down all anti-miscegenation laws in the United States that forbade interracial marriage. The case was brought by Mildred Loving, a woman of African-American and Native American heritage, and Richard Loving, who was white. In 1958, the couple were married in Washington D.C., but a few weeks after they returned home to Virginia they were arrested and charged with violating Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924. They pled guilty and were sentenced to a one-year prison sentence which was suspended on the condition that they leave Virginia and not return together as husband and wife for 25 years. Their Supreme Court case was the culmination of their nine-year fight to freely live as a married couple.

The holiday that became Loving Day was created by college student Ken Tanabe in 2004. While Loving Day is not an officially recognized holiday in the United States, it remains the largest multiracial celebration in the country. It’s a reminder of what a culturally rich nation the United States is and encourages diversity and inclusion. If you would like to learn more about the Lovings and their brave fight, check out the photography collection The Lovings: an Intimate Portrait by Stephen Crowley. The documentary The Loving Story and the book Loving: Interracial Intimacy in America and the Threat to White Supremacy by Sheryll Cashin are also excellent resources.

Juneteenth (also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day) is a holiday celebrating the emancipation of enslaved people throughout the United States. The day originated in Galveston, Texas and is celebrated on the anniversary of the June 19, 1865 announcement of General Order No. 3 by General Gordon Granger of the Union Army. The order declared freedom for those still enslaved in Texas. Despite this order and the Emancipation Proclamation of 1862, slavery didn’t officially end in the United States until December 6, 1865 with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution which abolished slavery nationwide.

Juneteenth is officially recognized in 47 states as well as the District of Columbia. At the time of writing this post, the United States Senate and the House of Representatives had passed a resolution that would establish Juneteenth as a federal holiday. President Joseph Biden signed it into law on June 17, 2021.

Juneteenth is the longest known African-American holiday. For more information on the history behind Juneteenth check out On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed. If you need resources to teach your children about this momentous date there’s also The Story Behind Juneteenth by Jack Reader or All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson.

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