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This article is about the holiday. For the work by Ralph Ellison, see Juneteenth (novel).
Juneteenth or June 19th 1865
Emancipation Day celebration - 1900-06-19.jpg
Juneteenth celebration in Austin, Texas, on June 19, 1900
Also called Freedom Day or Emancipation Day
Observed by Residents of the United States, especially African Americans
Type Ethnic, historical
Significance Emancipation of last remaining slaves in the United States
Observances Exploration and celebration of African-American history and heritage
Date June 19
Next time 19 June 2015 (2015-06-19)
Frequency annual

Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day, Freedom Day, or Emancipation Day, is a holiday in the United States that commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the U.S. state of Texas in 1865, and more generally the emancipation of African-American citizens throughout the United States. Celebrated on June 19, the term is a portmanteau of June and nineteenth,[1][2] and is recognized as a state holiday or special day of observance in most states.

The holiday is observed primarily in local celebrations. Traditions include public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, singing traditional songs such as "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and "Lift Every Voice and Sing", and readings by African American writers such as Maya Angelou[3] and Ralph Ellison. Celebrations sometimes take the form of parades, rodeos, street fairs, cookouts, family reunions, park parties, historical reenactments, or Miss Juneteenth contests.[4][self-published source]


Ashton Villa, from whose front balcony General Order #3 was read on June 19, 1865

During the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, with an effective date of January 1, 1863. Although it declared that slaves were to be freed in the Confederate States of America in rebellion against the federal government, it had minimal actual effect.[5] Even after the ending of military hostilities, as a part of the former Confederacy, Texas did not act to comply with the Emancipation Proclamation, and in fact was the only Confederate state to not comply as it was the state that held the most slaves.[6][verification needed]

On June 18, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops arrived on the island of Galveston, Texas, to take possession of the state and enforce the emancipation of its slaves.[6] On June 19, standing on the balcony of Galveston's Ashton Villa, Granger read the contents of "General Order No. 3":

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. 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.[7]

Emancipation Day celebration in Richmond, Virginia in 1905

Former slaves in Galveston rejoiced in the streets. Juneteenth celebrations began in Texas the following year.[7] Across many parts of Texas, freed people pooled their funds to purchase land specifically for their communities and increasingly large Juneteenth gatherings — including Houston's Emancipation Park, Mexia's Booker T. Washington Park, and Emancipation Park in Austin.[7]

Economic and cultural forces led to a decline in Juneteenth celebrations in the early 20th century. The Depression forced many blacks off farms and into the cities to find work. In these urban environments, employers were less eager to grant leaves to celebrate this date, and a rise in patriotism among African-American people steered more toward July 4 as Independence Day.[citation needed] The Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s focused the attention of African-American youth instead on the struggle for racial equality, but many also linked these struggles to the historical struggles of their ancestors.

Following the 1968 Poor People's March to Washington, D.C. called by Rev. Ralph Abernathy, many attendees returned home and initiated Juneteenth celebrations in areas where the day was not previously celebrated. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s it experienced growing interest from communities and organizations throughout the country, and in 1994 a group of community leaders gathered at Christian Unity Baptist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana to work for greater national celebration of Juneteenth.[8] Currently, organizations like the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation are working towards making Juneteenth a national day of observance.[9]

Official status[edit]

The event was made a Texas state holiday beginning in 1980, under legislation introduced by freshman Democratic state representative Al Edwards. The legislation was opposed by African-American representative Clay Smothers of Dallas County, who declared the holiday "fraudulent" and belittled the observance as merely "ceremoniously grinning and bursting watermelons on the Capitol grounds".[10] Juneteenth is a "partial staffing holiday", meaning that state offices do not close, but some employees use a floating holiday to take the day off. Schools are not affected because they are already into summer vacation by June 19.[citation needed]

Its observance has spread to many other states, with a few celebrations taking place even in other countries.[11][12] As of May 2014, 43 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have recognized Juneteenth as either a state holiday or special day of observance; these are Alabama, Alaska,[12][13] Arkansas,[13] California,[12][13] Colorado,[13] Connecticut,[12][13] Delaware,[13] Florida,[13] Georgia, Idaho,[13] Illinois,[13] Indiana, Iowa,[13] Kansas,[13] Kentucky,[13][14] Louisiana,[13] Maine, Maryland,[15] Massachusetts,[13] Michigan,[13] Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri,[13] Nebraska,[13] Nevada, New Jersey,[12][13] New Mexico,[13] New York,[12][13] North Carolina,[13] Ohio, Oklahoma,[13] Oregon,[13] Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina,[13] Tennessee,[13] Texas,[13] Vermont,[13] Virginia,[13] Washington,[13] West Virginia,[13] Wisconsin,[13] and Wyoming.[13]

In 1996 the first legislation to recognize "Juneteenth Independence Day" was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.J. Res. 195, sponsored by Barbara-Rose Collins (D-MI). In 1997 Congress recognized the day through Senate Joint Resolution 11 and House Joint Resolution 56. In 2013 The U.S. Senate passed Senate Resolution 175, acknowledging Lula Briggs Galloway (late president of the National Association of Juneteenth Lineage) who "successfully worked to bring national recognition to Juneteenth Independence Day", and the continued leadership of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Juneteenth Celebrated in Coachella". Black Voice News. June 22, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Juneteenth". Merriam Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 2013-05-30. 
  3. ^ Taylor, 2002. pp. 28–29.
  4. ^ "How to Celebrate". Juneteenth.com. Retrieved June 19, 2014. 
  5. ^ Sick from Freedom, First Edition, New York, Oxford University Press, 2012,
  6. ^ a b Gilbert Cruz (2--8-06-18). "A Brief History of Juneteenth". Time magazine. Retrieved 2013-05-30. 
  7. ^ a b c "Juneteenth". State of Texas website. Retrieved 2006-07-06. 
  8. ^ Chandler, D.L. (June 19, 2012). "Juneteenth: Celebrating The Early Moments Of Freedom Today". News One. Retrieved June 19, 2014. 
  9. ^ "What Is Juneteenth?". PBS. Retrieved 17 June 2014. 
  10. ^ "Anne Dingus, "Once a Texas-only holiday marking the end of slavery, Juneteenth is now celebrated nationwide with high spirits and hot barbecue," June 2001". Texas Monthly. Retrieved October 11, 2013. 
  11. ^ "The World Celebrates Freedom". Retrieved 2006-06-19. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f Moskin, Julie (2004-06-18). "Late to Freedom's Party, Texans Spread Word of Black Holiday". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-04-28. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af " "Thank you for supporting Library Partnership's Juneteenth Celebration!". Alucha County Library District. Retrieved July 12, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Kentucky Legislature - HB42". Retrieved July 12, 2013. 
  15. ^ Brown, Stacy (30 May 2014). "Juneteenth officially recognized in Maryland". Baltimore Times. Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  16. ^ "Senate Resolution 175 (113th Congress)". Beta.congress.gov. June 19, 2013. Retrieved June 19, 2012. 

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