Celebrated annually on June 19th, Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, is an integral part of American history signifying the abolition of slavery. The origins of the holiday can be traced back to 1865 when Union troops reached Galveston, Texas to announce slaves’ emancipation, over two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

Juneteenth festivities encompass various traditional activities such as parades, BBQ feasts, musical events, and learning sessions about African American heritage. While Juneteenth has significant historical importance, it only became an officially recognized federal holiday in 2021.

History of Juneteenth

Juneteenth, commonly known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, or Emancipation Day, is an annual celebration marking the abolition of slavery in the United States. The celebration takes place on the 19th of June each year and its origins originated from June 19, 1865, which was over two years post issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln.

President Lincoln released the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, during the peak of the American Civil War. This historic document declared the freedom of all enslaved individuals residing in Confederate territories, stating that they “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” However, the implementation of this declaration was dependent on the presence of Union troops. Texas, being a distant state of rebellion, had minimal Union troops, making it difficult to enforce the proclamation. Hence, many owners of enslaved people moved to Texas.

Texas became the center stage of the Juneteenth story when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, in 1865. He announced on June 19th, that federal orders have declared all slaves in Texas are now free, giving rise to the name Juneteenth, a blend of “June” and “nineteenth”. Thus, June 19th marked the freedom of some of the last slaves in America.

Initially, Juneteenth was celebrated mainly in Texas, with community-focused activities centered around the church. As African Americans migrated within the U.S., the Juneteenth tradition was carried along. Celebrations often include communal prayers, speeches, picnics, and games.

Juneteenth observance remained relatively low-profile till the Civil Rights Movement. The 1968 Poor People’s Campaign reaffirmed its importance as a symbol of African American pride and equality.

Though Juneteenth’s celebration was primarily regional in Texas for many years, the recent times have witnessed a resurgence in its popularity and recognition, attributed to increased awareness of African American history and culture. On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden made a monumental move by signing a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, officially dubbed “Juneteenth National Independence Day.”

Juneteenth Timeline

First Africans Arrive in Virginia

The first African captives arrive in Point Comfort, which would become part of Virginia.

Emancipation Proclamation Enacted

The Emancipation Proclamation becomes effective, freeing enslaved people in Confederate states.

General Order No. 3

Major General Gordon Granger lands at Galveston, Texas with news that the Civil War is over and slavery is abolished. This is the event Juneteenth commemorates.

14th Amendment Ratified

The 14th Amendment grants citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States, including former enslaved people.

15th Amendment Ratified

The 15th Amendment grants African American men the right to vote.

Juneteenth Becomes a Texas State Holiday

Representative Al Edwards puts forth legislation to make Juneteenth a state holiday in Texas, the first state to do so.

National Recognition and Celebration

More and more states officially recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday or observance, and the push for it to become a national holiday grows.

Federal Holiday

Juneteenth becomes a federally recognized holiday in the United States.

Ideas to Celebrate Juneteenth

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Host a Juneteenth Cookout

Invite your friends and family for a backyard barbeque. Serve traditional African American cuisine to reflect the significance of the day.

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Educational Movie Night

Host a movie night featuring films and documentaries about African American history and culture.

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Book Club Discussion

Organize a book club meeting focused on works by African American authors.

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Local Culture Festival

Participate or organize a local community festival showcasing African American music, dance, art, and food.

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Community Service

Organize or join a community service project or group focused on promoting racial equality and justice.

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Create a Family Tree

Dedicate the day to researching and creating a family tree, a great way to connect with your roots.

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Museum Visit

Visiting a museum or an exhibit dedicated to Black history.

8 Interesting Facts About Juneteenth

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Origins of the Name

Juneteenth combines the words 'June' and 'nineteenth', referring to the date June 19, 1865, when the abolishment of slavery was announced in Texas.

2.

General Order No. 3

The basis of Juneteenth is General Order No. 3, which Army Major General Gordon Granger read aloud in Galveston, Texas. This order informed Texas residents that all slaves were free.

3.

The First Juneteenth Celebration

The first Juneteenth celebration was held a year later in 1866. It was a time for former slaves and their descendants to gather and celebrate their newfound freedom.

4.

The Juneteenth Flag

A flag was designed in 1997 by Ben Haith, the founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation, to symbolize the history and significance of Juneteenth.

5.

Symbols of Juneteenth

Strawberry soda pop is a traditional drink associated with Juneteenth celebrations, as are barbecues and red velvet cake.

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The “Miss Juneteenth” Pageant

Many towns around the U.S. host annual Miss Juneteenth beauty pageants, where young women compete for college scholarships and the honor of representing the historical significance of Juneteenth.

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Juneteenth's Significance in Popular Culture

Several films, television series, and songs reference or revolve around Juneteenth, including the 2020 film 'Miss Juneteenth' and episodes of the TV shows 'Atlanta' and 'Black-ish'.

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Juneteenth National Independence Day

On June 17, 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden signed a bill into law establishing Juneteenth National Independence Day as a federal holiday.

Juneteenth FAQs

Next Juneteenth Dates

Year Date Day
2023 June 19th Monday
2024 June 19th Wednesday
2025 June 19th Thursday
2026 June 19th Friday
2027 June 19th Saturday
What is the pattern? Every June 19th

Juneteenth Word Search

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