What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is a celebration of the emancipation of those who were enslaved in the United States. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation declaring more than three million slaves living in Confederate states to be free. News of emancipation, however, did not reach Texas until a little more than two years later, on June 19, 1865.
On June 19, 1866, the first Juneteenth celebration took place in Texas, but was called Jubilee Day at this time. People dressed up in their finest clothes and attended prayer meetings and sang spirituals. The celebration soon made its way into other states and became an annual event.
Early celebrations were often used as political rallies to provide voting instructions to recently freed slaves. Today, celebrations usually include prayer and religious services, educational events, picnics, festivals and family gatherings.
Did you know…
- Juneteenth was originally known as Jubilee Day and became known as Juneteenth in the 1890s
- Juneteenth has also been known as Emancipation Day and Liberation Day
- Juneteenth has also been called America’s second Independence Day
- Juneteenth became a Texas state holiday in 1980
On June 17, 2021, president Biden signed into law S. 475, the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act designating Juneteenth National Independence Day as a legal public holiday.