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Juneteenth: Learn More

Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19, is the name given to Emancipation Day by African-Americans in Texas. In 2021, it became a national holiday.
black soldiers
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
General Orders, Number 3; Headquarters District of Texas, Galveston, June 19, 1865

Image via SFIst: All About Juneteenth, the Holiday Celebrating the End of Slavery

What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth, sometimes also called “Freedom Day” and “Emancipation Day”, or the nation’s “Second Independence Day,” takes place in Texas every year on June 19th. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, ordering all slaves to be freed in the seceding southern states. However, freedom would not come for all enslaved Black people until the end of the Civil War at the hands of the Union Army. On June 19, 1865, Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, where General Granger announced that “in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

There are scholars who argue that indeed the news of emancipation traveled more quickly and widely throughout the country than is given credence in the history books. There is evidence of large numbers of slaves escaping to freedom after hearing of the emancipation, and there is evidence of many of them joining the Union Army in order to help liberate others still held in bondage. Union General Grant praised and acknowledged the effectiveness and courage of the Black Regiments who fought in the effort to free their brothers and sisters from chains.  

An effort to make Juneteenth a national holiday finally succeeded with the passage of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act on June 16, 2021.

On Becoming a Federal Holiday

Opal Lee, 94 year old activist from Ft. Worth, speaking before Congress in support of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act.

"Never before, millions have been aware of the atrocities that happened to the enslaved or the blatant disregard for human life that is now occurring, (which is) a residual effect of slavery."

- Lawmakers reintroduce Juneteenth Bill. This 94 year old will do "whatever it takes" to make it a National Holiday.

Senate moves to create holiday.

“Juneteenth is about reclaiming our history, rejoicing in the progress we’ve made, and recommitting to the work yet undone," said Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., in a press release announcing the measure.

- Senators Propose Bill to Make Juneteenth a Federal Holiday.

President Biden signs legislation to make Juneteenth a Federal holiday in June 2021.

Opal Lee, the Amazing Woman Behind Juneteenth's Long Road To Becoming A National Holiday, her background and experiences in leading the crusade.

Musician Pharrell Williams on Juneteenth becoming recognized as a Federal holiday.

Why Celebrate Juneteenth?

Juneteenth: A conversation between Deirdre Cooper Owens a professor, public speaker and author of the book Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology, and Hasan Kwame Jeffries, associate professor of history at The Ohio State University and author of Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama’s Black Belt

Juneteenth: Justice, Freedom and Democracy, a presentation by 6 different African American museums highlighting the history, significance, and importance of Juneteenth through reenactments, music, dance, and storytelling. 

Secretary of the Smithsonian and Director and Founder of the National Museum of African American History & Culture, Lonnie G. Bunch III discusses the legacy and significance of Juneteenth.

A Vox news feature answering the question of why all Americans should honor Juneteenth. Documents, photos, and interviews highlight the painstaking journey of a resilient people from bondage to freedom.

All About Juneteenth

The Daily Show (starring Trevor Noah) segment about the national holiday that celebrates the end of slavery, Juneteenth, explained by Daily Show Correspondent, Dulce Sloan.

Juneteenth explained in a Vice News segment.

The characters of Blackish educate us about Juneteenth, featuring the Legendary Roots Crew in animation and song.

A video interview with Annette Gordon-Reed, author of On Juneteenth, conducted by the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Discussion by the African American news publication The Root, on the importance and significance  of Juneteenth to America.

Juneteenth History

A video interview with Naomi Mitchell Carrier discussing the legacy of Juneteenth in a Washington Post documentary segment. Naomi Mitchell Carrier is an Author, Historian, Founder & Executive Director of The Texas Center for African American Living History.

Juneteenth: Celebration & Legacy

Celebrating Juneteenth with Galveston's historical markers. ABC News 13 story shares the history of Juneteenth where it happened in Galveston and points out the historical markers that commemorate the oldest celebration of the end of slavery in the United States.

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