Recognizing This Significant Day in History—Here Are 50 Quotes to Better Understand Juneteenth

Juneteenth is a day dedicated to recognizing justice and freedom for African Americans and Black people in America. It was first celebrated in Texas on June 19th, 1866 to commemorate the end of slavery and enslaved people first learning of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Juneteenth is recognized in 45 states and The District of Columbia. Although the holiday has gained more acknowledgment, there is always room to educate more Americans on how significant Juneteenth is. Here are 50 Juneteenth quotes to help you better understand the importance of Juneteenth and racial justice from modern Black activists, historical figures, celebrities, athletes and more!

Related: Get Ready for Freedom Day! Here Are 30 Ways To Celebrate Juneteenth 2024

50 Juneteenth Quotes

1. “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



2. “It is true that Mr. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, after which there was a commitment to give 40 acres and a mule. That's where the argument, to this day, of reparations starts. We never got the 40 acres. We went all the way to Herbert Hoover, and we never got the 40 acres. We didn't get the mule. So we decided we'd ride this donkey as far as it would take us." — Rev Al. Sharpton 

3. “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 

Related: What Is Juneteenth? Everything to Know About the Integral Day in Black History  

4. “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 

5. “Studying the blueprints of liberation, one can map out the ways we as The Global African Diaspora have continued to resist and exist under regimes of antiBlack terror. Since the development of racial capitalism, the use of African peoples as capital, our ancestors have always fought for freedom. Our history doesn’t begin with slavery, but our future depends on us ending the mechanisms of it. Juneteenth is an extension of that abolitionist spirit where we march forth in reflection of the struggle." — Brandon Gonzalez  

6. “Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.” Toni Morrison 

Related: Juneteenth Flag Meaning



7. "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 

8. “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 

Related: How to Say 'Happy Juneteenth'! 

9. “Juneteenth is a date that recognizes the end of slavery in the United States. Although Juneteenth is not a day that is celebrated in the UK, it is still a reminder of the injustices black people endured. 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 

10. "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 

11. "Juneteenth to me means a lot. When we think about the African Diaspora and the history rooted in America and freedom for African Americans it serves a reminder that there are people before us that have fought for liberation. It shows that even after the emancipation proclamation was signed in 1863 African Americans still were not liberated. It redefined what liberation meant for the African American community here in the US. It showed that our liberation comes from us. Liberation lies within us and will not be formed from the current institutional structures we have in place for it never has." — Fatimata Cham  

12. "We have suffered discrimination. We have suffered isolation and undermining. But we stand up for America, oftentimes when others who think they are more patriotic, who say they are more patriotic, do not." — Maxine Waters 

13. “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  

14. “In the end, anti-black, anti-female, and all forms of discrimination are equivalent to the same thing: anti-humanism.” —Shirley Chisholm 

Celebrate Freedom With These 101 Inspiring Juneteenth Instagram Captions

15. “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



16. "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 

17. “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 

18. "On this day, June 19, 1865, Black people’s complete personhood was acknowledged on a systemic level for the very first time. It dates the moment African-Americans, Caribbean-Americans, and Afro-immigrants alike could begin to, on some level, participate in and see themselves as part of a whole society. Since the passage of the 13th amendment, Black Americans like Shirley Chisholm have trail-blazed the socio-political world, creating a place for women like me to feel empowered in sharing my voice and stories with the world.  As a woman of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and a member of the Divine 9, Juneteenth is also a time for me to acknowledge the ancestry of my founders and the experiences that led them to create our beloved sorority and to fight for the inclusion of black women in every space. I am humbled to share in the legacy of Juneteenth and understand that this becomes my fight to continue." — Brianna Taylor  

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

20. "Juneteenth reminds me of Black freedom dreams, my freedom dreams. In 1865, the port city of Galveston, Texas, or the land formerly known as Mexico as I call it, where so much blood, Indigenous blood, Mexican and Tejano blood, Black blood had been shed, there was a freedom ring that was heard across the world. I hear that ring still and it is a reminder that I stand on others' shoulders and I, like my ancestors—my Mascogo, Afro-Seminole, African and Black ancestors—who honor Juneteenth with me, will have to prepare a place for the generations that come after so they may experience more joy, more rest, more freedom; so they may experience liberation. Juneteenth represents liberation and it belongs to us. It is a constant reminder that Black freedom is predestined, that only we can tell our stories and that there is no freedom, without Black freedom." — Dannese Mapanda

What Is Closed on Juneteenth?



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

22. "We black folk, our history, and our present being are a mirror of all the manifold experiences of America. What we want, what we represent, what we endure is what America is. If we black folk perish, America will perish." —Richard Wright

23. “We are going to get out here, I am going to get out here and get something done. We have to wake up America. We have to make America uncomfortable like we’ve been uncomfortable for 400 years." — Gwen Carr

101 Justice Quotes from Leaders and Advocates Throughout History



24. "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 

25. "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

26. "America has looted black people. America looted the Native Americans when they first came here, looting is what you do. We learned it from you. We learned violence from you. If you want us to do better, then damnit, you do better.” —Tamika Mallory

27. "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

28. “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

29. “The persistence of violent white nationalism - these things have deep ugly roots, inextricably tied to slavery and its aftermath. We will be better off unearthing it and airing it out if we really want repair.” — Joy Reid

30. "Nobody's free until everybody's free." —Fannie Lou Hamer

31. "The day we were free—everyone was free. Why not make it a paid holiday? We deserve that...We want a day that is inclusive to everyone.” — Pharrell Williams

32. "There’s no other race, to me, that has such a tough history for hundreds and hundreds of years, and only the strong survive, so we were the strongest and the most mentally tough, and I’m really proud to wear this color every single day of my life.” — Serena Williams

33. "You may kill me with your hatefulness. But still, like air, I’ll rise.” — Maya Angelou

34. “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

35. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color." —Colin Kaepernick

36. "I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” —Frederick Douglass 

37. “Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality and liberty and just for all, including Black women who are often, too often overlooked, but so often prove they are the backbone of our democracy.” — Kamala Harris

38. "I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free... so other people would be also free." — Rosa Parks

39. “People say I talk so slow today. That’s no surprise. I calculated I’ve taken 29,000 punches. But I earned $57 million and I saved half of it. So I took a few hard knocks. Do you know how many black men are killed every year by guns and knives without a penny to their names? I may talk slow, but my mind is OK.” —Muhammed Ali

40. "Juneteenth has become a newly but proudly embraced commemoration in my family and we have been exploring the ways in which we want to experience and culturally embrace the date (and beyond).. Juneteenth is another moment for me and my loved ones to build an archive of truth and experience of (ourselves) Black folks." —Tatiana Glover

41. "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

42. “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”— Nelson Mandela

43. "Our watchword has been “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Brave men do not gather by thousands to torture and murder a single individual, so gagged and bound he cannot make even feeble resistance or defense. Neither do brave men and women stand by and see such things done without compunction of conscience, nor read of them without protest." —Ida B. Wells-Barnett

44. "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." — Martin Luther King

45. "Say it loud. I'm black and I'm proud!" — James Brown

46. “I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?” — Sojourner Truth

47. "Besides, They’ll see how beautiful I am And be ashamed—I, too, am America." —  James Baldwin

48. "Slavery did NOT end via the efforts of a multiracial movement of abolitionists (many of them white). Federal officials created the discourse of freedom and removed slaves from the shackles of slavery in order for slaves to work, and “the freed slaves needed to work so that the North would not assume that they would carry the financial burden of the decimated Southern economy." — Ericka Hart

49. "No violence will create peace...To effect change we must show love in the face of hate and peace in the face of violence." — Beyoncé

50. "My fellow Americans, this is a special moment in our history. Just as people of all faiths and no faiths, and all backgrounds, creeds, and colors banded together decades ago to fight for equality and justice in a peaceful, orderly, nonviolent fashion, we must do so again." — John Lewis 

Check out 50 racial justice quotes.