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52 Powerful Juneteenth Quotes To Celebrate Freedom (2023)

Quote Graphic: Juneteenth was never about commemorating a delayed proclamation but about celebrating a people’s enduring spirit. — Annette Gordon-Reed

Juneteenth — a portmanteau of “June” and “nineteenth” — marks an historic day in American history.

On this day in 1865, in Galveston, Texas, the last enslaved individuals in the U.S. finally heard the liberating words of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, a good two and a half years after it was originally issued.

This day started as a quiet acknowledgment of freedom with prayer and family gatherings — and over the years, Juneteenth has transformed into a widespread celebration marked by community parades, backyard parties, solemn memorials, and sumptuous meals.

As descendants of the original 250,000 liberated individuals from Galveston began to spread across the nation, so too did the tradition of Juneteenth.

Related: Explore our guide on how to thoughtfully celebrate Juneteenth this year

And in this tradition, words play a significant role. The quotes associated with Juneteenth offer a bridge to the past and a reflection on the continued journey toward equality.

As we engage in the celebration of Juneteenth, these quotes serve as poignant reminders of this pivotal moment in history and its enduring relevance.

Let’s explore a selection of these quotes, each offering a unique perspective on this important American celebration:

Explore the best quotes about Juneteenth

Famous Quotes

“Juneteenth means so much to me. It represents the freedom that my ancestors fought so tirelessly for. But rather than focusing on the brutalization of my people then and now. I choose to focus on hope. June 19th reminds me that I am the force of power to change this world and to follow in the footsteps of my ancestors to work towards liberation.”
— Mariah Cooley

“Juneteenth means so much to me. It represents the freedom that my ancestors fought so tirelessly for. But rather than focusing on the brutalization of my people then and now. I choose to focus on hope. June 19th reminds me that I am the force of power to change this world and to follow in the footsteps of my ancestors to work towards liberation.” — Mariah Cooley

“Juneteenth was never about commemorating a delayed proclamation but about celebrating a people’s enduring spirit.”
Annette Gordon-Reed

“Juneteenth was never about commemorating a delayed proclamation but about celebrating a people’s enduring spirit.” — Annette Gordon-Reed

“What I love about Juneteenth is that even in that extended wait, we still find something to celebrate. Even though the story has never been tidy, and Black folks have had to march and fight for every inch of our freedom, our story is nonetheless one of progress.”
Michelle Obama, in an Instagram post

“What I love about Juneteenth is that even in that extended wait, we still find something to celebrate. Even though the story has never been tidy, and Black folks have had to march and fight for every inch of our freedom, our story is nonetheless one of progress.” — Michelle Obama, in an Instagram post

“Liberty is slow fruit. It is never cheap; it is made difficult because freedom is the accomplishment and perfectness of man.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Liberty is slow fruit. It is never cheap; it is made difficult because freedom is the accomplishment and perfectness of man.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.”
— Frederick Douglass

“Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” — Frederick Douglass

“Struggle is a never ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation.”
Coretta Scott King

“Struggle is a never ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation.” — Coretta Scott King

“Juneteenth means freedom for so many people, for so many reasons. I try to get people to understand it’s not a Texas thing, is not a Black thing — it’s freedom for everybody. I’m hoping, eventually, we will celebrate from the 19th of June to the Fourth of July; that would be celebrating freedom.”
— Opal Lee, on Forbes

“Juneteenth means freedom for so many people, for so many reasons. I try to get people to understand it’s not a Texas thing, is not a Black thing — it’s freedom for everybody. I’m hoping, eventually, we will celebrate from the 19th of June to the Fourth of July; that would be celebrating freedom.” — Opal Lee, on Forbes

“Hold those things that tell your history and protect them. During slavery, who was able to read or write or keep anything? The ability to have somebody to tell your story to is so important… it says: “I was here. I may be sold tomorrow. But you know I was here.””
Maya Angelou

“Hold those things that tell your history and protect them. During slavery, who was able to read or write or keep anything? The ability to have somebody to tell your story to is so important… it says: “I was here. I may be sold tomorrow. But you know I was here.”” — Maya Angelou

About Juneteenth

“Juneteenth was a promise that was broken. Reconstruction failed and this country has continued to wage war on the Black body. Juneteenth also embodies the resilience of Black people. Even in the face of a broken system, we choose to find joy in resistance and celebrate in community.”
— Obrian Rosario

“Juneteenth was a promise that was broken. Reconstruction failed and this country has continued to wage war on the Black body. Juneteenth also embodies the resilience of Black people. Even in the face of a broken system, we choose to find joy in resistance and celebrate in community.” — Obrian Rosario

“I’m hoping that Juneteenth’s history reminds us that we’ve got to take some responsibility for educating our people. It’s worn out to say ‘each one teach one’, but it’s true. I’m hoping that Juneteenth will not just be about festivals, but that it will be about uplifting each other. Could you just imagine if all the cities in the U.S. would do Juneteenth like the Fourth of July? Wouldn’t that be something? I’ve even advocated for having a celebration from the 19th to the Fourth of July, just like Mardi Gras. I can dream, can’t I?”
— Opal Lee, in an interview with Shondaland 

“Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory or an acceptance of the way things are. It’s a celebration of progress. It’s an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, change is possible — and there is still so much work to do.”
Barack Obama, on Twitter

“This Juneteenth, we celebrate the emancipation of Black Americans and reflect on their activism pushing our nation towards its founding ideals. From the ballot box to housing, employment, & more — we must continue working for equal justice. The march towards freedom continues.”
— Stacey Abrams, on Twitter

“Today on Juneteenth, the day we celebrate the end of slavery, the day we memorialize those who offered us hope for the future and the day when we renew our commitment to the struggle for freedom.”
— Angela Davis

“Today on Juneteenth, the day we celebrate the end of slavery, the day we memorialize those who offered us hope for the future and the day when we renew our commitment to the struggle for freedom.” — Angela Davis

“The 4th of July was never about Black people. Juneteenth is just for us. As Black people, we are told we don’t deserve our own holidays rooted in our own history. Everything is whitewashed. Juneteenth is for us… Juneteenth symbolizes the hope that my children and grandchildren will be free. It’s Black Joy and Black tenacity to survive.”
— Tanesha Grant

“The American education system has taught us as children that Black people have history in pain and survival. They have failed to teach us our history in joy, success, innovations and so much more. Juneteenth is a reclaim on our history that has been stolen. Juneteenth is greater to us than a Fourth of July or Christmas because it represents our culture, resilience, and deserving respect from a country WE built.”
— Nia White

“Juneteenth is important to me because till this day black people are still subject to racial injustice on a global scale, and are still victims of racial abuse regardless of where they are from. Juneteenth allows us to remember how far black people have progressed since and it is a reminder of the strength we have within us.”
— Bethel Kyeza

“Every June 19th is an opportunity for us to continue the momentum of memory, and the parade and the self-determination movements.”
— Dr. Greg Carr

“The Juneteenth vote was a relatively easy thing to do. There was one senator who gave up his opposition, and this was something that everybody agreed on. I went to the White House for the signing. John Cornyn was there and Sheila Jackson Lee was there. They probably don’t agree on a lot, but they could agree on that. So it was a good moment. And we need feel-good moments from time to time. But we also need these serious things that we want them to move on, and we have to press them to move on.”
Annette Gordon-Reed, in an interview with The Forum

“Black Texans have been celebrating Juneteenth for 157 years now. And there’s a template for the kinds of things you do. It’s a holiday about history. And most of the celebrations have someone giving a speech or discussion of the history. You’ll have art that depicts the moment. Those kinds of things that keep the purpose of the holiday upfront. And we just have to keep doing that, and protest when people do things that don’t align with the history.”
Annette Gordon-Reed, in an interview with The Forum

“Black Texans have been celebrating Juneteenth for 157 years now. And there’s a template for the kinds of things you do. It’s a holiday about history. And most of the celebrations have someone giving a speech or discussion of the history. You’ll have art that depicts the moment. Those kinds of things that keep the purpose of the holiday upfront. And we just have to keep doing that, and protest when people do things that don’t align with the history.” — Annette Gordon-Reed, in an interview with The Forum 

“Throughout history, Juneteenth has been known by many names: Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, Liberation Day, Emancipation Day and, today, a national holiday.”
— Kamala Harris

About History

“If the cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. Because the goal of America is freedom, abused and scorned tho’ we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

“If the cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. Because the goal of America is freedom, abused and scorned tho’ we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

“Slavery is theft — theft of a life, theft of work, theft of any property or produce, theft even of the children a slave might have born.”
— Kevin Bales

“Emancipation was as a result of dedication, hard work, speaking up, and speaking out. For people like me who believe in speaking up and speaking out, for times when we feel overwhelmed, or that laws and the world is moving backwards, it gives me hope. These landmarks from emancipation to the end of segregation and enactment of laws that push us one step closer to equality for all gives me hope. I remain aware that laws alone don’t cause the change, but they give a backing, a recognition, I believe is so important.”
— Sikemi Okunrinboye

“The history of slavery is the history of the United States. It was not peripheral to our founding; it was central to it. It is not irrelevant to our contemporary society; it created it. This history is in our soil, it is in our policies, and it must, too, be in our memories.”
Clint Smith, How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America

“At some point it is no longer a question of whether we can learn this history but whether we have the collective will to reckon with it.”
Clint Smith, How the Word Is Passed

“When I think about the history of slavery and racism in this country, I think about how quick we are to espouse notions of progress without accounting for its uncertain and serpentine path.”
Clint Smith, How the Word Is Passed

“When I think about the history of slavery and racism in this country, I think about how quick we are to espouse notions of progress without accounting for its uncertain and serpentine path.” — Clint Smith, How the Word Is Passed

Inspirational Quotes

“If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go.”
James Baldwin

“If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go.” — James Baldwin

“Because, none of us can be free until all of us are free…”
— LeVar Burton

“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”
Desmond Tutu

“I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”
— Frederick Douglas

“Unshackled from terror, To love is how we vow that we are here, that we are. It is how we break free.”
Amanda Gorman

“You must never, ever give out. We must keep the faith because we are one people. We are brothers and sisters. We all live in the same house: The American house.”
John Lewis 

“You must never, ever give out. We must keep the faith because we are one people. We are brothers and sisters. We all live in the same house: The American house.” — John Lewis 

“Every Black person you meet is a MIRACLE. We are descended of lineages meant to be destroyed by slavery or colonization. Our lives are hard-fought and hard-earned. We are priceless. We are valuable because of our humanity-and declared valuable because our ancestors declared our worth when they fought for us to live.”
— Brittany Packnett Cunningham, in an Instagram post

“Studying atrocities committed by our ancestors isn’t an indictment of you. It’s a lesson for us.
Acknowledging the horrors of our history isn’t a source of division. It’s a force for unity.
Recognizing yesterday’s oppression aligns us to pursue tomorrow’s freedom.”
— Adam Grant

“Every Juneteenth, I think about how generations of people fought for a freedom they knew they might not see themselves, but they fought for it anyway because they knew some day, someone would. My life, my children’s lives, are only possible because of those centuries of struggle.”
— Clint Smith, in a 2023 tweet

“If you dare to struggle, you dare to win. If you dare not struggle, then damn it, you don’t deserve to win.”
— Fred Hampton

“There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made.”
Michelle Obama

“There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made.” — Michelle Obama

On Freedom & Liberation

“Whether it’s freedom to express, freedom to live, freedom to earn, freedom to thrive, freedom to learn, whatever it is, I want to make sure that I’m a part of these spaces and opening doors.”
— Angela Rye

“Whether it’s freedom to express, freedom to live, freedom to earn, freedom to thrive, freedom to learn, whatever it is, I want to make sure that I’m a part of these spaces and opening doors.” — Angela Rye

“Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”
— Fannie Lou Hamer

“Freedom to me means the ability to have a decent place to live, a place where the people around me have those same things, and that we don’t have poverty like we have it now.
Freedom to me means everybody having what they need. It means education of our children, healthcare for every person who needs it. Freedom means being able to dialogue and learn from somebody from another race and not living in this climate of hate and resentment that we’re living in now. That’s what freedom means to me.”
— Opal Lee, in an interview with Shondaland 

“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free... so other people would be also free.”
Rosa Parks

“You can’t separate peace from freedom, because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.”
— Malcom X

“You can’t separate peace from freedom, because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” — Malcom X

“I had crossed the line. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land.”
— Harriet Tubman

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

“Emancipation wasn’t a gift bestowed on the slaves; it was something they took for themselves, the culmination of their long struggle for freedom, which began as soon as chattel slavery was established in the 17th century, and gained even greater steam with the Revolution and the birth of a country committed, at least rhetorically, to freedom and equality.
In fighting that struggle, Black Americans would open up new vistas of democratic possibility for the entire country.”

— Jamelle Bouie, in a New York Times opinion article

“Juneteenth may mark just one moment in the struggle for emancipation, but the holiday gives us an occasion to reflect on the profound contributions of enslaved Black Americans to the cause of human freedom.
It gives us another way to recognize the central place of slavery and its demise in our national story.
And it gives us an opportunity to remember that American democracy has more authors than the shrewd lawyers and erudite farmer-philosophers of the Revolution, that our experiment in liberty owes as much to the men and women who toiled in bondage as it does to anyone else in this nation’s history.”

— Jamelle Bouie, in a New York Times opinion article

“Juneteenth may mark just one moment in the struggle for emancipation, but the holiday gives us an occasion to reflect on the profound contributions of enslaved Black Americans to the cause of human freedom. It gives us another way to recognize the central place of slavery and its demise in our national story. And it gives us an opportunity to remember that American democracy has more authors than the shrewd lawyers and erudite farmer-philosophers of the Revolution, that our experiment in liberty owes as much to the men and women who toiled in bondage as it does to anyone else in this nation’s history.” — Jamelle Bouie, in a New York Times opinion article‍

More Sayings & Captions

“I don’t know if I’ve gotten over the fact that each one of us needs to be responsible for making our country the country it needs to be. We can’t leave it to the government and to other people to do it. Make ourselves a committee of one to address the things that are happening that we know can be erased. That’s all I need to see. I hope people will listen that we can do this.”
— Opal Lee, on Forbes 

“I don’t know if I’ve gotten over the fact that each one of us needs to be responsible for making our country the country it needs to be. We can’t leave it to the government and to other people to do it. Make ourselves a committee of one to address the things that are happening that we know can be erased. That’s all I need to see. I hope people will listen that we can do this.” — Opal Lee, on Forbes  

“But what a feeling can come over a man just from seeing the things he believes in and hopes for symbolized in the concrete form of a man. In something that gives a focus to all the other things he knows to be real. Something that makes unseen things manifest and allows him to come to his hopes and dreams through his outer eye and through the touch and feel of his natural hand.”
— Ralph Ellison, Juneteenth

“Today on Juneteenth, the day we celebrate the end of slavery, the day we memorialize those who offered us hope for the future and the day when we renew our commitment to the struggle for freedom.”
— Angela Davis, in a speech for ILWU Juneteenth Work Action

“Every year we must remind successive generations that this event triggered a series of events that one by one defines the challenges and responsibilities of successive generations. That's why we need this holiday.”
— Al Edwards

“Understanding history is one of many ways to break the cycle. Lift up/amplify Black voices. Support Black owned businesses. Reach back. Mentor.”
— Chadwick Boseman

“What is the morality that would say that the oppressors’ version of historical events should naturally take precedence over the knowledge of the oppressed?”
Annette Gordon-Reed

“This Juneteenth, we celebrate the emancipation of Black Americans and honor those who fought for this nation to live up to its founding ideals of liberty and equality for all. May we honor their legacies through action — building a world fueled by justice and steeped in equity.”
— Stacey Abrams, on Twitter

“This Juneteenth, we celebrate the emancipation of Black Americans and honor those who fought for this nation to live up to its founding ideals of liberty and equality for all. May we honor their legacies through action — building a world fueled by justice and steeped in equity.” — Stacey Abrams, on Twitter‍

Article Details

May 18, 2023 1:26 PM
June 19, 2023
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