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Juneteenth: celebration of African-American history and heritage

Juneteenth is a national celebration in recognition of the full emancipation of slaves on June 19, 1865 when General Granger arrived in Texas over two years after President Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation. This Juneteenth will mark the 155th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the U.S. and Chicago has several opportunities to celebrate:

8th Annual Juneteenth Celebration by The Black Mall

Ideas to commemorate remotely by The Chicago Defender

Popular activities on Juneteenth have traditionally included rodeos, fishing, barbecuing, baseball and of course feasting. Some dishes have become synonymous with Juneteenth, such as red drinks. According to culinary historian Adrian Miller, the red drinks popular at Juneteenth celebrations trace back to fruits of two native West African plants: the kola nut and the hibiscus. Both plants were made into a reddish tea, and the practice of adding reddish substances to make sweet drinks was common during slavery. After slavery, the type of red drink changed but the usage of red ingredients by African Americans continued, such as adding strawberries or cherries to iced tea and lemonade. The symbolic meaning has endured, as Miller states, “I love eating red-colored foods, especially red drinks, because it connects me to previous generations of African Americans. I think about all of those Emancipation celebrations, church suppers, family reunions and other occasions when people got together to celebrate, renew family ties and friendships, and affirm their humanity.”

Talk with your child about Juneteenth and then practice cutting and blending skills with this red drink recipe:

Strawberry Soda (makes 4 servings)


  • 1 lb fresh strawberries

  • 5 basil leaves

  • 5 mint leaves

  • 2 tbsp maple syrup

  • 9 cups sparkling water

  • ice cubes


  • Cut off the tops of the strawberries.

  • Add the strawberries, basil, mint, and maple syrup to a blender and mix until smooth.

  • Pour the mixture into a pitcher.

  • Add the sparkling water and stir well.

  • Serve in a glass over ice!

About the author: Angela Loewen is a dietetic intern currently earning her Master’s degree in nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Angela has a passion for community nutrition and the role it plays in preventing chronic diseases. She believes teaching kids to cook helps set them up for a lifetime of healthy-eating habits.


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