Healthy Desserts for Juneteenth Food Festivities

I have a confession, I had not heard of Juneteenth, the holiday that celebrates the abolition of slavery in the United States, until recently. I was flipping through the newspaper and saw a photo of a stunning Strawberry Slab Pie, along with a reference to Juneteenth food festivities.

Healthy Summer Desserts For Juneteenth Food Festivities

The text that went along with the pie photo stated that red summer desserts are ideal for the Juneteenth celebration. Since I wasn't familiar with the holiday, I decided to do a bit of research. The intersection of food and history is a great way to get the wheels of my brain turning.

What Is Juneteenth?

The word “Juneteenth” is a portmanteau, in that it combines the meanings of two other words. Take for example the term “brunch,” which blends “breakfast” and “lunch.” In our case, Juneteenth combines the words “June” and “nineteenth” which I think is pretty cool.

When Is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is not just any day in the teens of June, it is June 19th. This holiday celebrates freedom and is rooted in Texas. Juneteenth marks the day in 1865, more than two years after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, that slaves in that state were freed.

Soul Food

Juneteenth Emancipation Anniversary Celebration

Adrian Miller: writes in his fabulous book Soul Food:

Juneteenth is an Emancipation anniversary celebration. It commemorates when federal troops, under the command of General Gordon Granger, arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved African Americans that they were free. However, the troops arrived on 10 June…1865 –a full two and one-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. The planters delayed the news for obvious economic reasons.

Cel-Liberation Day or Freedom Day

The Juneteenth holiday is also known as Cel-liberation Day, Freedom Day, or the Black Fourth of July.

A Tale Of  Two States

The story of Emancipation in the United States is a complex one that winds on for more than a century. President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, while the United States was embattled in the Civil War. If we compare the formal abolition of slavery in two states, West Virginia and Mississippi, we see that their approaches were very different.

Emancipation In West Virginia

West Virginia was created when the western part of Virginia seceded from the Confederacy in the midst of the Civil War on June 20, 1863.

On that date, it became the 35th state and the last slave state admitted to the Union. A year and a half later, on February 3, 1865, the West Virginia legislature ratified the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery in the state. This was just prior to the end of the Civil War on April 9, 1865.

Emancipation In Mississippi

Did you know that Mississippi did not officially abolish slavery until 2013? It was the last state to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment and did so on February 7th of that year, when it submitted the required documentation to make slavery officially illegal in the state. Essentially, it took 148 years to submit the paperwork, since the Thirteenth Amendment was passed on December 6, 1865.

Lift Black Voices

I took a bit of a pounding from All Lives Matter proponents and Candace Owens fans in the comments of this blog post, and I am guessing someone here will call me out for calling out the above. So be it. Nothing I can't handle.

Juneteenth And Passover

Now, back to Juneteenth food festivitiese and healthy red desserts for it. With their common themes of freedom and food, for me, Juneteenth brings to mind the Jewish holiday of Passover. I've updated our Passover menu to be incredibly healthy and low-carb and provide similarly healthy recipes below for Juneteenth.

Low-Carb Strawberry Lemonade

Healthy Red Summer Drinks For Juneteenth

In Soul Food, the book mentioned above, Miller states that “Juneteenth is now the closest thing to a national Emancipation celebration.” He discusses the tradition of consuming red drinks and provides a hibiscus tea recipe –you'll have to buy the book to get that. In the meantime, try my Low-Carb Strawberry Lemonade.

Strawberry Crisp

Healthy Red Summer Desserts For Juneteenth Food Festivities

The New York Times points out the culinary tradition of eating red desserts at this celebration, “On Juneteenth, the picnic table overflows with summertime pies and red foods, a symbol of perseverance,”1 and also states, “Red foods are customary for Juneteenth, the crimson a symbol of ingenuity and resilience in bondage.”2 My Keto Strawberry Crisp recipe above makes a great Juneteenth dessert.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Healthy Desserts For Juneteenth Food Festivities

Another beautiful red dessert you can try for Juneteenth food festivities is the low-carb Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp from Paleo Cooking from Elana’s Pantry.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cake For Juneteenth

I've also seen that red velvet cakes are a Juneteenth tradition. On that note, you can serve the Red Velvet Cupcakes from my second book Gluten-Free Cupcakes for the holiday.

Juneteenth Celebrations

Holidays are potent symbols of the obstacles we face and hopefully overcome. Like Passover and fleeing Egypt, this one is, Juneteenth shares the theme of freedom from enslavement. It's easy to get excited about the Passover Seder and all of the great food that goes along with it. Likewise, it may be easy to get caught up here in Strawberry Lemonade recipes and Red Velvet cupcakes. But let's not forget what we are celebrating, and how very far we have to go to Lift Black Voices and create true equality in this country.

Resources For Social Equity

I have more for you here on the blog when it comes to Resources for Social Equity and Inclusion and plan to continue writing about food, health, and social justice.

Have You Heard Of Juneteenth?

Leave a comment and let me know if you are as ignorant as I was when it comes to the Juneteenth holiday.

Thank you for using your platform to make a change.


40 responses to “Healthy Desserts for Juneteenth Food Festivities”

  1. The TV show “Blackish” recently re-ran an episode dealing with Juneteenth…I saw the original airing and THAT was the first I had ever heard if it…my history education was severely lacking, sad to say : (

  2. Hello Elana! Thank you for thoroughly explaining the history of Juneteenth. I knew of the importance but not to the extent that you have provided. Truly, the only way our nation and world will change and turn from racism and hate is if we all humble ourselves turn to God and His ways, not our human selfish ways. A surrendered heart to God is desiring to change and love others the way that God loves us with unconditional, undeserved love and kindess. When we can look at others and know that they were created equally by God and that they are in fact a child of God, our nation and world will change. As long as we live for ourselves, putting our own interests above others, ignoring the needs of people, and loving only those who are in are circle or who we think deserve our love, nothing will change. Only God can transform our hearts to LOVE and SERVE one another. No amount of money or legislation will ever change hate, greed, ignorance, bitterness, pride etc. God will change our hearts, but we must be willing to surrender to Him. Let’s get on our knees more and pray for transformation and humility for our nation and world. Proverbs 3:5-6

    • Amy, thanks so much for your thoughtful comment, I appreciate it. I will continue to work to give Black people the same access to good schools, voting rights, health care, etc. as the rest of those who live in our country receive. I will work to correct systemic injustice until this is done. I will pray, but I will not stop taking action as long as I live. This is because I believe in the theology of free will, as opposed to the theology of determinism.

  3. I was looking for a way to celebrate with my kids and I appreciate your research and will do my own tonight as well.

  4. Hi Elana, Thank you so much for the direction you are taking right now. I have always loved your recipes and now with the addition of information concerning black history it is really enlightening. Also, so happy to hear you won’t let the naysayers get to you. I am finding some of my conversations lately with others exhausting and realize that I am not the one who will change particular people. Life is a journey and some, even though not young, are still at the beginning of their their journey, or at least that is my humble opinion. We can only hope that continuing the conversation will make the difference. Take care!

    • Bonnie, yes, those of us who can, must, continue this conversation. Thanks for your comment and for talking with me about important issues.

  5. I’ve heard of it and grew up in Texas but didn’t know more than that. Thank you for the post. Learning every day

  6. Thank you Elana for owning up to your ignorance. A lot of people are trying to pretend they are more “woke” than they really are. Thank you also for highlighting this very important holiday! I did know about Juneteenth and about the absolutely horrible fact that the Texan slaveholders chose to keep their slaves for an extra two years to reap more free labor.

  7. Thank you for doing the work to research this and then share it with us! I knew some of the history but I didn’t know about Juneteenth until recently either. Wow, Mississippi! And I thought I was bad at submitting my work on time!

      • I had never heard of juneteenth either…until recently when the president was going to hold a rally on that day. Thank you for putting this article together. Ignore the Candace followers, they like to justify their bias by saying, see a person of color is saying it so it gives me permission to feel that way, sad.

        • Hi Ofelia and Elena,
          I hadn’t heard of Juneteenth…or Candace Owens. Wow. Thank you both for sharing raw truths. Food, knowledge, and sharing. Some of the best parts of humanity.

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