By the late 1800s, large crowds of African Americans were celebrating Juneteenth. During these early celebrations, prayer and spirituals were common, as were readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, singing and games. Some would take time to search for lost family members, and to represent their freedom, participants would often come dressed in new clothes. Shown here is a Juneteenth celebration in Texas in 1900.
After the turn of the 20th century, however, as black students moved into American classrooms, education about Juneteenth, and slavery in general, was suppressed. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s helped renew interest, but only to an extent, as black people fighting for equal rights focused on changes in policy.
A 1968 Poor Peoples March in Washington, D.C., led by Rev. Ralph Abernathy, is seen as a turning point. After this event, many attendees returned home to initiative Juneteenth celebrations — laying the groundwork for the holiday to regain prominence in the coming years.