The celebration of Juneteenth can be traced back to the late 1800s. On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves in the United States, but it wasn’t until over two years later that the news reached enslaved African Americans in Texas.
Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, two months after accepting Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender, to announce the end of the Civil War and slavery. That day, June 19, 1865, became known as “Juneteenth Independence Day,” “Emancipation Day,” or “Freedom Day.”
National Holiday Status
Juneteenth began in Texas, and in 1980, Texas became the first state to recognize it as a holiday. Moving forward to 2020, amidst the nationwide protests against racism and police brutality, Juneteenth regained its momentum towards national holiday status.
On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bill into law, prompting Juneteenth to become the 11th holiday to be recognized by the federal government. The law went into effect immediately, causing celebrations to begin the next day, as June 19th was a Saturday that year.
When Juneteenth became a national holiday, it signaled a meaningful victory for the Black Lives Matter Movement and positive legislative changes were made alongside the induction of Juneteenth.
In recent years, Juneteenth is commonly celebrated in the backyards of family homes with a strong emphasis on food, family, and friends. Additionally, large cities like Washington and Atlanta host parades and festivals to honor the holiday.
To this day, Galveston, Texas remains a popular site for Juneteenth events. This year, the city will celebrate with a banquet, parade, picnic, and poetry festival. Similar events are being held in Baltimore, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
While celebration and kinship are an integral part of the day, education and self-improvement are held in high regard as well. The holiday should be spent celebrating African American freedom and accomplishment. Individuals are encouraged to take the time to respect all cultures, embrace differences, and develop where improvement is needed.