For many African Americans across the country, Juneteenth is about taking a moment to enjoy the progress of the community while paying homage to the struggles.

The holiday, which originated in Texas on June 19, 1865 -- nearly three years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and the last 250,000 people still being held in slavery learned from Union soldiers they were free -- is widely considered to be African Americans' true independence day.

"There were stories of people dancing in the streets," said Tonya Hopkins, the founder of The Food Griot LLC. "There are celebrations documented as early as 1867."

Now, African Americans celebrate the day by enjoying good food, music and parades across the country. The holiday serves as an ode to the community's ancestors and is meant to honor and thank those who paved the way.

The most popular way to celebrate is through food, where must-have red foods like strawberry pies, red velvet cakes, red punch and more symbolize the blood of those lost during the struggle for emancipation.

"A lot of people will say 'why are there red foods?' But there is symbolism behind it," said Hopkins. "African Americans are connected to American food like no other group of Americans: making due, making amazingness out of things that someone may not value."

To celebrate the holiday, Chef Carla Hall shares her twist on traditional Juneteenth foods on "Good Morning America."

Find the full recipes for curried sweet potato salad, pork tenderloin with homemade BBQ and watermelon strawberry slushie below:

PHOTO: Carla Hall shares her twist on traditional Juneteenth foods
Carla Hall
Carla Hall shares her twist on traditional Juneteenth foods

Curried sweet potato salad

Yield: 6 servings

6 cups 1-inch-chunks peeled sweet potatoes
Kosher salt
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
3 tablespoons finely chopped bread-and-butter pickles
2 teaspoons mild curry powder
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 large eggs, hard-boiled, peeled, and diced
1 small red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced
1 small green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced
Sliced scallions, for garnish


Put the sweet potatoes in a large saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by 2 inches. Very generously salt the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain well, then spread out on a half-sheet pan to quickly cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, whisk the mayonnaise, sour cream, pickles, curry, vinegar and ¾ teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Add the eggs, both peppers and cooled sweet potatoes. Fold gently until well-mixed.

You can serve it right away but it's better if it's covered and chilled for at least an hour or two for the flavors to meld. You can keep it in the fridge for up to two days. When ready to serve, sprinkle the scallions on top.

PHOTO: Carla Hall's cookbook is pictured here.
Carla Hall
Carla Hall's cookbook is pictured here.

Dry-rubbed pork tenderloin served with barbecue sauce

PHOTO: Carla Hall's dry-rubbed pork tenderloin served with barbecue sauce
Carla Hall
Carla Hall's dry-rubbed pork tenderloin served with barbecue sauce

Yield: 6 servings

2 pork tenderloins
1 recipe pork dry rub (see below)
1 recipe barbecue sauce (see below)


Prepare pork tenderloin: generously salt pork tenderloins then rub with dry rub mixture. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Cook tenderloin: Heat stainless or cast iron skillet to medium high. Pour two teaspoons olive oil in the pan and place the tenderloins in the skillet. Sear on all sides then finish cooking in the oven to a "medium" internal temperature. Remove from the oven and allow to rest. Slice thinly and serve with barbecue sauce.

Pork dry rub

1 teaspoon ground thyme
2 teaspoons chili powder
4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder


Combine all ingredients. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

Barbecue sauce

1 cup ketchup
½ cup white or apple cider vinegar
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon pork dry rub mix
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne


Mix all ingredients in a small pot and simmer over a low heat for 15-20 minutes. Adjust salt if necessary. Serve at room temperature.

Watermelon Strawberry Slushie

PHOTO: Carla Hall's Watermelon Strawberry Slushie
Carla Hall
Carla Hall's Watermelon Strawberry Slushie

Yield: 4 servings

8 cups seedless watermelon cubes, frozen for at least 24 hours
2 cups strawberries, quartered and frozen for at least 24 hours
2-4 tablespoons simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar)
Juice & zest of 1 lime
¼ cup fresh mint
1 ½ cups filtered water


Add the watermelon, strawberries and the remaining ingredients to the carafe of the blender.

Pulse the blender until the fruit starts to break up, then blend to form a thick slushy consistency. Adjust the simple syrup to taste. If the consistency is too thick, add more water.

The Curried Potato Salad recipe is from "Carla Hall's Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration."