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Juneteenth vs. July 4

Jul 05, 2023 12:00PM ● By Anand Subramanian

Photo by cottonbro studio


In the United States, two dates hold immense historical and cultural significance—Juneteenth and July 4. Both observances commemorate freedom, but they represent distinct milestones in the journey of African Americans. Understanding the contrasting narratives and exploring their respective historical contexts is crucial to grasp these dates' profound impact on the Black community. This blog will delve into the differences between Juneteenth and July 4, unravel their historical roots, and emphasize their importance to African Americans.

Juneteenth: A Celebration of Emancipation 

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is celebrated on June 19 each year. It marks the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States. The historical significance of Juneteenth can be traced back to June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced the end of slavery, over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.

The announcement in Galveston marked a turning point, bringing news of liberation to the last enslaved people in the country. Juneteenth represents the long-awaited realization of freedom for millions of African Americans who had been forcibly brought to American shores and endured generations of bondage. The day symbolizes the triumph over the horrors of slavery and serves as a reminder of Black communities' resilience, strength, and perseverance.

Image: Juneteenth Flag Raising Ceremony at NASA in 2023. Source: Public Domain

July 4: Independence Day and Its Complexities 

July 4, commonly known as Independence Day, is celebrated across the United States to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. This historic document declared the thirteen American colonies' separation from British rule and the establishment of a new nation founded on principles of liberty and equality.

While July 4 is celebrated as a symbol of American freedom, it is essential to recognize its complexities and acknowledge that the full realization of freedom did not extend to African Americans at that time. Slavery continued to persist for almost a century after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, depriving millions of Black people of their fundamental human rights and denying them the promises of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness outlined in the founding documents.

Signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Trumbull, 1819.  Public Domain

Contrasting Narratives and Historical Significance: 

The differences between Juneteenth and July 4th lie in their narratives and historical contexts. Juneteenth represents the moment when the news of freedom reached the last enslaved people, becoming a symbol of liberation from slavery. In contrast, July 4 signifies the birth of a nation founded on ideals of freedom and equality but fails to encompass the experiences of African Americans who were excluded from these promises.

The historical importance of Juneteenth is grounded in recognizing the long and arduous journey toward freedom endured by African Americans. It acknowledges the generations of struggle and resilience while highlighting the ongoing fight for civil rights and equality. Juneteenth offers an opportunity to reflect on the legacy of slavery and to continue working toward a more just and inclusive society.

Reading the Emancipation Proclamation / steel engraving, H.W. Herrick, del., J.W. Watts 1864. Public Domain

Importance for African Americans: 

For African Americans, Juneteenth holds deep cultural significance and serves as an occasion for remembrance, celebration, and reflection. It provides an opportunity to honor ancestors who endured slavery and fought for freedom, recognizing their sacrifices and contributions to the nation's progress. Juneteenth celebrations often feature parades, music, food, and community gatherings, fostering a sense of unity, pride, and shared heritage among African Americans.

While Americans of all backgrounds celebrate July 4, the recognition and observance of Juneteenth have gained prominence in recent years, highlighting the importance of acknowledging and learning from the diverse narratives that shape the American experience. Juneteenth offers a chance for education and empathy, fostering dialogue and understanding between different communities. 

Its increasing recognition and status as a federal holiday in the United States signify a growing commitment to inclusivity and a step toward a more equitable society.


Juneteenth and July 4 represent two significant dates in American history, each with a distinct narrative and historical importance. Juneteenth stands as a reminder of the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, celebrating their resilience and struggle for freedom. In contrast, July 4 commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence but requires acknowledgment of the complexities surrounding the exclusion of African Americans from the promises of freedom and equality.

Recognizing the differences between Juneteenth and July 4 is essential to understanding the African American experience and fostering inclusivity.

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 Anand Subramanian is a freelance photographer and content writer based out of Tamil Nadu, India. Having a background in Engineering always made him curious about life on the other side of the spectrum. He leapt forward towards the Photography life and never looked back. Specializing in Documentary and  Portrait photography gave him an up-close and personal view into the complexities of human beings and those experiences helped him branch out from visual to words. Today he is mentoring passionate photographers and writing about the different dimensions of the art world.

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