June, which, at last, recognized as a federal holiday in 2021 under President Joe Biden to commemorate the liberation of enslaved people in the United States. Its name comes from June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger in Galveston, Texas, issued General Order No. 3 declaring that under the Emancipation Act the Declaration “All slaves are free”.
RELATED: How to (Not) Do June, From Liberty Panties to Terrifying Video Game Makeup
For decades, food and drink have intertwined during the June 10 celebration. Thus, you can learn a lot about the holiday, as well as about the culinary traditions of black Americans, using food as a lens. This weekend, we’ve prepared a guide for you on what to listen, read, and watch to better understand the intersection between black food traditions and liberation.
Read: Watermelon and Red Birds: A Cookbook for June and Black Holidays.
This amazing new cookbook by Nicole Taylor is the very first published cookbook dedicated to June Day. It is inspired by Taylor’s ten years of experience watching a holiday that “needs to cook meals all day long with artful salads, hearty desserts and raised glasses of ‘red drink'”.
Taylor’s spin on these traditions has led to recipes such as peach jam and molasses-glazed chicken thighs, Afro-egg creams, and Southern-style potato salad. “Watermelon and red birdsalso provides a list of resources to guide readers to hot sauces, jams, spices and ingredients owned by BIPOC.
Watch: “Dazed: How African American Food Changed America”
In an episode called “Freedom” from the Netflix series”High: How African American Food Changed America‘, host Steven Satterfield meets with Eugene Thomas, a descendant of enslaved people freed on June 1, and they share a piece of Red Velvet Cake. Thomas explains why the focus is on red dishes and ingredients.
“It was a lot of a reminder,” Thomas said. “The blood shed before the Liberation, by all those who came before us, who did not have the opportunity to taste the freedom that we taste right now.”
The entire episode is emotional, informative, and especially poignant as corporations attempt to commercialize the holiday.
Listen: “A Taste of Freedom” from NPR Code Switch.
On this note, NPR code switch published a fantastic conversation between correspondent Karen Grigsby Bates and food historian Rafia Zafar, in which the pair discuss the connection between black food culture and emancipation, and what it means for mega-corporations like Amazon and Nike to declare June’s annual company holidays. As host Gene Dembi put it, these companies have “a patchy track record when it comes to labor and pay.”
“As the June number expanded, Gene, I began to wonder if he was watered down by his very popularity,” Bates said. “For example, if everyone is involved in it – everyone – is its original meaning just lost?”
As more Americans of all backgrounds seek to honor and connect with June 10, this edition is a helpful guide to real conversations about how to do so with respect.
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