Today marks Juneteenth, commemorating the day on which enslaved people in Galveston, Texas were finally told of the Emancipation Proclamation, on June 19, 1865, two years after it was issued on January 1, 1863. Since then, Juneteenth has been a celebrated by the African-American community as a day of celebration and reflection. Juneteenth is a state holiday in Texas since the 1970s, but there have been calls to make it a national holiday. One of the classic celebrations of Juneteenth is the family and community cookout, full of recipes passed down through the generations, along with new favorites. Many of the biggest celebrations of Juneteenth are still held in Texas, and Texan foodways and traditions have influenced what have become the iconic Juneteenth foods, as showcased by Chef Adrian Lipscombe’s Texan-tinged menu at the James Beard House. Nicole Taylor unpacks some of the food traditions of Juneteenth for the New York Times. The color red is a symbol of resistance, and red foods have become popular on Juneteenth for symbolic reasons, including red-tinted hot links, red velvet cakes, and red beverages.
Michael Twitty draws linkages between the popularity of red foods for Juneteenth and the foodways of West Africa. Says Twitty, “The practice of eating red foods—red cake, barbecue, punch and fruit– may owe its existence to the enslaved Yoruba and Kongo brought to Texas in the 19th century. For both of these cultures the color red is the embodiment of spiritual power and transformation.” Other traditions include tea cakes, a common sight on the Juneteenth table according to Etha Robinson. Ultimately, what is at the Juneteenth table is a reflection of the community cooking it, as highlighted by the four chefs in this Saveur article featuring chefs Carla Hall, Marcus Samuelsson, JJ Johnson, and Jerome Grant.