More holidays appear on U.S. calendars each year than Americans can keep up with, including those of particular interest to African Americans. But the general public may not understand what such holidays commemorate. Take Kwanzaa, for instance. Much of the public has at least heard of the holiday but would be hard pressed to explain its purpose. Other holidays of interest to African Americans, such as Loving Day and Juneteenth, simply aren’t on the radar of many Americans. With this overview, find out how these holidays began as well as the origins of observances such as Black History Month and Martin Luther King Day that are likely more familiar to you.
When did slavery end in the United States? The answer to that question isn’t as clear-cut as it seems. While most slaves received their freedom after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, slaves in Texas had to wait more than two-and-a-half years later to receive their freedom. That’s when the Union Army arrived in Galveston on June 19, 1865, and ordered that slavery in the Lone Star State end.
Today interracial marriage in the U.S. between blacks and whites is growing at a record-breaking pace. But for years, various states barred such unions from taking place between African Americans and Caucasians.
A Virginia couple named Richard and Mildred Loving challenged the anti-miscegenation laws on the books in their home state. After being arrested and told they couldn’t live in Virginia because of their interracial union—Mildred was black and Native American, Richard was white—the Lovings decided to take legal action. Their case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided on June 12, 1967, to strike down anti-miscegenation laws in the country.
Many Americans have at least heard of Kwanzaa. They may have seen Kwanzaa celebrations featured on the nightly news or seen Kwanzaa greeting cards in the holiday sections of stores. Still, they may not realize what this seven-day long holiday commemorates.