Juneteenth (Emancipation Day) | Almanac.com

Juneteenth (Emancipation Day)

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Juneteenth, also called Emancipation Day, is a federal holiday that celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. Many businesses as well as post offices will be closed today. 

The slavery of African Americans in the U.S. was a major part of its history and Civil War. Juneteenth is observed annually on June 19 to remember the day when Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger told enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, that they had been liberated on June 19, 1865—nearly three years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery in the U.S. 

On that day, General Gordon Granger landed with Federal troops in Galveston, Texas, with the intention of enforcing President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863. The end of slavery was a gradual process, occurring as news of the proclamation reached outlying towns and states. Juneteenth was probably a shortened version of June 19th. A proclamation from the president stated that all slaves were now free, and the relationship between master and slave was now employer and employee: “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.”

Beginning the year following this Texas event, 1866, festivities to rival the Fourth of July began, including prayer services, inspirational speakers, reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, storytelling by former slaves, and traditional food and games. Soon neighboring states such as Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma were adding celebrations. Throughout Texas, ex-slaves purchased land for their Juneteenth gatherings. June 19 was declared a legal holiday in Texas in 1980.

Juneteenth became a federal holiday on June 21, 2021. African Americans and citizens across this nation honor and celebrate freedom from slavery as well as the achievements of African Americans from the past 158 years. See the Almanac article on Juneteenth