Juneteenth is a federal holiday that recognizes the ending of slavery in the United States. Going forward, the country now recognizes Juneteenth each year on June 19.
Juneteenth – A Time for Celebration and Reflection
Although President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation declaring the abolishment of slavery as of January 1, 1863, freedom was slow to come, especially for African American slaves in the western-most rebelling states. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865, that the abolition of slavery was finally enforced by the Union Army. On that date, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas and announced to the people of Texas that all enslaved African Americans were free.
Juneteenth takes its name from that date, although slavery was not truly at an end in this nation at that time. Slavery was still a reality, and it took not just the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War, but also the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution (abolishing slavery) and the Reconstruction Amendments (14th Amendment provides citizenship, due process and equal protection and the 15th Amendment provides the opportunity to vote and hold public office) to finally end slavery throughout the nation.
For an interesting historical recounting of that time, read the National Museum of African American History & Culture description of Juneteenth.
Learn about the history of Juneteenth: https://nmaahc.si.edu/blog-post/historical-legacy-juneteenth
Juneteenth was long recognized in African American communities—particularly in the South—but it did not become a federal holiday until 2021 when President Joe Biden signed an Act declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday. Support emerged to make Juneteenth a federal holiday following national reckoning on race triggered by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and other Black Americans, as well as nationwide protests against police brutality. It is the first federal holiday to be enacted since Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which was established in 1983.
The legacy of Juneteenth illustrates the power of African Americans’ perseverance, strength, resilience, and refusal to give up hope, even in the most difficult times. However, June 19, 1865, didn’t mark the end of their journey towards achieving freedom, equality, and justice. It was only the beginning.
Juneteenth is a time to reflect on the work that remains to be done to address institutional racism and systemic inequality.
Let us recognize the accomplishments of those who have fought long and hard for civil rights and social justice and acknowledge the work that we must continue to do.