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June: Juneteenth Topic Guide


"Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. This festival is held in many African American and other communities annually. The name of the festival refers to June 19. Juneteenth festivities often include family reunions, parades, plays, and storytelling. Some communities hold longer Juneteenth festivals that span several days as a celebration of civil rights and freedom. Juneteenth is a federal holiday observed in the District of Columbia and by federal employees throughout the United States. In addition, all of the states have recognized Juneteenth in an official capacity.

The festival originated in Texas at the end of the American Civil War (1861-1865). In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared freedom for the enslaved people in the Confederate States in rebellion against the Union. However, many slaveowners in Texas suppressed information about the emancipation even after the war ended in April 1865. On June 19, 1865, Gordon Granger, a Union general, entered Galveston, Texas, and ordered all enslaved people in the state to be freed. About 250,000 slaves, among the last remaining in the United States, were freed.

Juneteenth celebrations were held only in Texas and a few communities in other states in the South in the years following the war. African Americans carried the celebration with them as they migrated to other regions. Today, Juneteenth festivals have become popular celebrations of freedom and African American culture in many communities throughout the country. Texas became the first U.S. state to recognize Juneteenth officially, in 1980. Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021. In some places, Juneteenth is called Black Independence Day, Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, or Jubilee Day."

-From “Juneteenth.” Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, Sept. 2021, p. 1; EBSCOhost Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia