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June is a month full of festivities and events commemorating love, equity, and liberty. While many of these holidays and observances are based on historical events, they also emphasize the idea that there is still work to be done in the present and the future.


A LGBTQ+ pride parade in Taksim Square, Turkey on June 30, 2013.

LGBTQ+ Pride Month

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) Pride Month is currently celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The Stonewall Uprising was a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. In the United States, the last Sunday in June was initially celebrated as “Gay Pride Day,” but pretty soon the “day” grew to encompass a month-long series of events.

Today, LGBTQ Pride Month events attract millions of participants around the world. Celebrations include pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, and concerts, and educational speakers. Memorials are also held during this month for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. The purpose of the month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally. Check out the Library of Congress website for a list of events, resources, and documentary footage of the first Pride march.

Caribbean American Heritage Month

This year marks the sixteenth celebration of Caribbean-American Heritage Month in the United States. Caribbean American Heritage Month was established to create and disseminate knowledge about the contributions and the significance of Caribbean culture and history in the U.S. The resolution passed the Senate in Feb. 2006 and President George H.W. Bush issued the proclamation in June 2006.

Throughout the month of June, Caribbean Americans come together to celebrate their heritage through many activities such as dancing, sharing traditional meals, festivals, parades, concerts, and observing and appreciating their rich history. Visit the official Caribbean American Heritage Month website to learn more about featured speakers, events, and traditions.

Approved on June 2, 1924, this act of Congress granted citizenship to any Native Americans born within the United States.

Indian Citizenship Act of 1924

On June 2, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge signed into law the Indian Citizenship Act, which marked the end of a long debate and struggle, at a federal level, over citizenship to all Native Americans born in the United States. However, the right to vote was not granted for many because some state and local laws still barred Native Americans from voting. It wasn’t until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1965 that all Native Americans were allowed to vote. Read more about the events that led up to this day on the Library of Congress website.

Loving Day

June 12th marks the anniversary of a historic court decision for interracial marriage. Mildred and Richard Loving had known each other since they were teens. Richard was of Irish and English descent, and Mildred of African American and Native American descent. They had dated on and off for a couple of years before they decided to get married after Mildred became pregnant. The Lovings traveled to Washington, D.C. to marry, where interracial marriage was legal. Five weeks later, they were arrested in Virginia for violating the state’s Racial Integrity Act.

Their case, Loving v. Virginia (1967), reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Their lawyers argued that laws against interracial marriage came from slavery laws, intended to oppress Black people, and based on white supremacy. Nine years after their arrest, the Lovings won their case on June 12th, 1967. Subsequently, it struck down all state laws against interracial marriage in the U.S. The Lovings’ memorable story is part of a continuing struggle for racial justice and equality. Visit the official Loving Day website for more.

Juneteenth

On June 16th, 1865, slaves in Texas were notified by Union Civil War soldiers about the abolition of slavery. This was 2.5 years after the final Emancipation Proclamation which freed all enslaved Black Americans. It’s been one year since the holiday became federally recognized.

First Juneteenth Flag flown in Milwaukee.

Juneteenth places a focus on historical education, joy, and achievement. Across the nation, family reunions are decked with music and festive colors, educational lecturers congregate to discuss Black history, and picnics are held to celebrate colorful and delicious cuisine. Oftentimes, multiple generations join together to pay tribute to the generations that came before them and inform the younger generations of their history.

But Juneteenth doesn’t just commemorate the freedom of the slaves; it also provides an opportunity to reflect on how to put an end to the discrimination, both systemic and outright racism, that Black Americans still experience every day.

Have you ever seen this flag? The original Juneteenth flag was designed in 1997 by Ben Haith, founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation. The flag has a blue and red stripe, a white star in the middle, an outline, and an arc that extends across the width of the flag. The colors of the flag are similar to the United States flag. This was intentional and meant to show that the formerly enslaved and their descendants are free Americans, too. The five-pointed star alludes to both Texas, also known as the “Lone Star state,” and the “liberation of African Americans in all 50 states.” A nova, often known as a “new star,” surrounds it, signifying a new beginning for all. The horizon arch depicts blue above and red below, signifying the blood-soaked ground that African American slaves sacrificed for the United States. Learn about the flag and more on the official Juneteenth website.

Birthday of Helen Keller

Helen Keller reading a book in braille.

Helen Adams Keller (June 27, 1880 – June 1, 1968) was an author, disability rights champion, political activist, and lecturer from the United States. Keller developed an unexplained sickness at the age of 19 months, which doctors described as “an acute congestion of the stomach and the brain.” Doctors now suspect it was meningitis, caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus), or Haemophilus influenzae. Keller became deaf and blind as a result of his sickness. She lived “at sea in a deep fog,” she wrote in her memoirs. From 1924 to 1968, she worked at the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB).

During this time, she toured the United States and visited to 35 countries around the world to advocate for those who have lost their vision. Keller was also an accomplished novelist, having written 14 novels as well as hundreds of lectures and essays. Keller advocated for disabled people, women’s suffrage, labor rights, birth control, and peace. She helped start the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920. The goal of the non-profit organization is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States. Visit TIME to learn more about Helen Keller.

Note: How are we doing? We want everyone to feel included and represented. Feel free to send us holidays and observances that have meaning to you and your loved ones to domcomms@med.unc.edu.