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Juneteenth is the newest federal holiday. Here's what it celebrates.

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ஜூனெட்டீன், அமெரிக்க உள்நாட்டுப் போரின் முடிவில் அடிமைப்படுத்தப்பட்ட மக்களின் சுதந்திரத்தை கொண்டாடுகிறது இந்த ஜூனெட்டீன். 150 ஆண்டுகளுக்கும் மேலாக, அமெரிக்காவில் உள்ள ஆப்பிரிக்க அமெரிக்க சமூகங்கள் இந்த விடுமுறையை அனுசரித்தன.

கடந்த வியாழக்கிழயிலிருந்து இனி ஒவ்வொரு ஆண்டும் ஜூன் 19 ஒரு அமெரிக்க விடுமுறை நாளாகும். , அமெரிக்க ஜனாதிபதி ஜோ பிடென் சட்டப்பூர்வமாக இது தொடர்பான மசோதாவில் கையெழுத்திட்டுள்ளார்.. 

Juneteenth is the newest federal holiday. Here's what it celebrates.

Observed on June 19, the holiday commemorates the end of slavery in Texas—which wasn't until two years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

The United States has a new federal holiday. On Thursday, U.S. President Joe Biden signed a bill into law that officially designates Juneteenth—observed each year on June 19—as an American holiday. As the holiday falls on a Saturday this year, federal workers will have the day off on June 18.

Known to some as the country’s “second Independence Day,” Juneteenth celebrates the freedom of enslaved people in the United States at the end of the Civil War. For more than 150 years, African American communities across the country have observed this holiday. (Here’s why Juneteenth is a celebration of hope.)

Juneteenth has gained awareness in recent years as activists have pushed for state and federal recognition. With the signing of this bill, those efforts will finally come to fruition as Juneteenth becomes the first new federal holiday since the establishment of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.

So what’s the story behind Juneteenth? Here’s a look at the history of the holiday and how it has been celebrated through the years.


At the stroke of midnight on January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation came into effect and declared enslaved people in the Confederacy free—on the condition that the Union won the war. The proclamation turned the war into a fight for freedom and by the end of the war 200,000 Black soldiers had joined the fight, spreading news of freedom as they fought their way through the South. (Read about the history of Juneteenth with your kids.)

Since Texas was one of the last strongholds of the South, emancipation would be a long-time coming for enslaved people in the state. Even after the last battle of the Civil War was fought in 1865—a full two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed—it is believed that many enslaved people still did not know they were free. As the story goes, some 250,000 enslaved people only learned of their freedom after Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, and announced that the president had issued a proclamation freeing them. (Explore the Underground Railroad’s ‘great central depot’ in New York.)

On that day, Granger declared, “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.”


With Granger’s announcement, June 19—which would eventually come to be known as Juneteenth—became a day to celebrate the end of slavery in Texas. As newly freed Texans began moving to neighboring states, Juneteenth celebrations spread across the South and beyond.

Early Juneteenth celebrations included church services, public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, and social events like rodeos and dances. (Learn how to cook Juneteenth cookies.)

For decades, many southern Black communities were forced to celebrate Juneteenth on the outskirts of town due to racism and Jim Crow laws. To ensure they had a safe place to gather, Juneteenth groups would often collectively purchase plots of land in the city on which to celebrate. These parks were commonly named Emancipation Parks, many of which still exist today.

As the Civil Rights movement gained momentum in the ‘60s, Juneteenth celebrations faded. In recent years, however, Juneteenth has regained popularity and is often celebrated with food and community. It also has helped raise awareness about ongoing issues facing the African-American community, including a political fight for reparations, or compensation, to the descendants of victims of slavery.

In 1980, Texas became the first state to recognize June 19 as a state holiday, which it did with legislation. Today, Juneteenth is recognized by nearly every state, and in June 2021, the U.S. Congress has passed a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.


Despite the holiday’s resurgence in popularity, Juneteenth is still not universally known and is often confused with Emancipation Day, which is annually celebrated on April 16.

Just as Juneteenth originally celebrated freedom in Texas, Emancipation Day specifically marks the day when President Lincoln freed some 3,000 enslaved people in Washington, D.C.—a full eight months before the Emancipation Proclamation and nearly three years before those in Texas would be freed.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the status of the bill to designate Juneteenth as a federal holiday.





The Oak Park Drill Team performs in a Juneteenth parade in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1995.

Photograph by MARLIN LEVISON / Star Tribune via Getty Images

On June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, with an announcement: Enslaved people there were free.

People from Africa had been enslaved in the United States since 1619. By the 1770s, people strongly disagreed over the issue of slavery. Many people in the northern Union states wanted to abolish, or end, slavery. In the southern Confederate states, white people relied on enslaved people to farm their crops and did not want it to end.

By 1861, 11 southern states had decided to secede, or withdraw, from the nation over disagreements over slavery and each state’s right to allow it. This is what started the Civil War in 1861.

When he first announced the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln officially ended the enslavement of people halfway through the Civil War. The declaration called for people to be freed on January 1, 1863. However, the announcement didn’t immediately lead to freedom because the Union army still needed to win the war. 

The beginning of the end of slavery

Portrait of Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, officer of the Federal Army

Union leader Gordon Granger told the 250,000 enslaved people of Texas that they were free.

Civil war photographs, 1861-1865, Library of Congress

On April 9, 1865, the Confederate army surrendered; the Union army was victorious, and the Civil War was over. Because of Lincoln’s earlier declaration ending slavery, that meant enslaved people could claim their freedom. But many slave owners didn’t want to see this change come.

For instance, leaders in Texas still followed the state’s Confederate constitution, which stated that no laws could be passed freeing enslaved people, even though the Confederacy had lost the war. That’s one reason why Granger and his Union army came to Texas more than two months after the end of the war, to make sure slave owners were following the new law and letting enslaved people go free.

To spread the word about freedom, Granger and more than 2,000 Union soldiers marched to public buildings and even a church to read the General Order, No. 3., part of which declared:

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. "

Later that year, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was passed into law to officially abolish the practice of slavery after nearly 250 years of it in the United States. Even after passage, the law often had to be enforced in many former slave states by federal agents.

Beyond Texas, enslaved people were granted freedom at different times, but it’s still June 19 that many people celebrate as a “second Independence Day.”

From proclamation to celebration

Soon after Granger’s announcement, newly freed Black people around Texas organized and purchased park land for annual celebrations for what was now called “Juneteenth,” a mashup of the month and day of Granger’s news. Owning land was something that enslaved African Americans were never allowed to do, so having a place set aside to celebrate their freedom was a powerful symbol of their new status. 

African American band at the Emancipation Day Juneteenth Celebration at "East Woods" on East 24th Street, June 19, 1900. Mrs. Grace Stephenson kept a diary on the day's events, which she later sold to the San Francisco Chronicle, which wrote a full-page feature on it.

A band plays at a Juneteenth celebration in Austin, Texas, in 1900.

Photograph courtesy of Austin History Center, Austin Public Library

The holiday quickly spread to other Black communities throughout the country. People gathered for church services, concerts, parades, and picnics with traditional tea cakes and bright red hibiscus iced tea. The day has been celebrated by generations of families, and some historians think the modern Juneteenth tradition of having red-colored foods, like strawberry soda, watermelon, and red velvet cake, was inspired by those early celebrations.

Until recently, a few states—including Texas, New York, and Virginia—observed Juneteenth as an official state holiday, and state employees had the day off. But now it's a national holiday for everyone. In 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, making June 19 a federal holiday. It's the first new one since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was declared in 1983.

People across the country celebrate Juneteenth by gathering with family and friends for parties, parades, cookouts, rodeos, and readings of the Emancipation Proclamation.


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