Juneteenth — June 19th — is also known as Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, and Black Independence Day. It marks the date when, on June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX, and announced the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery. It is also often observed for celebrating African-American culture.
Celebrations date to 1866, at first involving church-centered community gatherings in Texas. They spread across the South and became more commercialized in the 1920s and 1930s, often centering on a food festival. Participants in the Great Migration out of the South carried their celebrations to other parts of the country. During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, these celebrations were eclipsed by the nonviolent determination to achieve civil rights, but grew in popularity again in the 1970s with a focus on African American freedom and African-American arts. Beginning with Texas by proclamation in 1938, and by legislation in 1979, each U.S. state and the District of Columbiahave formally recognized the holiday in some way. With its adoption in certain parts of Mexico, the holiday became an international holiday. Juneteenth is celebrated by the Mascogos, descendants of Black Seminoles who escaped from slavery in 1852 and settled in Coahuila, Mexico.
Celebratory traditions often include public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, singing traditional songs such as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing“, and the reading of works by noted African-American writers, such as Ralph Ellison and Maya Angelou. Some Juneteenth celebrations also include rodeos, street fairs, cookouts, family reunions, park parties, historical reenactments, and Miss Juneteenth contests. When Juneteenth became a federal holiday on June 17, 2021, it was the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was adopted in 1983
To view an informative video on the history of Juneteenth, click here.