Juneteenth National Independence Day is a federal holiday observed on June 19th to commemorate the emancipation of people who had been enslaved in the United States. It's also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, and Emancipation Day. It originated in Galveston, Texas and commemorates the anniversary date of the June 19, 1865 announcement by General Gordon Granger proclaiming freedom from slavery in the state of Texas. It should be noted that there were enslaved people in both Delaware and Kentucky until the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified later in the year, which abolished all slavery, nationwide.
Juneteenth is a time to come together to celebrate freedom, a founding principle of the United States. Here are some ways communities and libraries celebrate Juneteenth:
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The Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1963, and freedom was granted to Black people enslaved throughout the country. However, it didn't apply in areas that were ruled by the confederacy that included the state of Texas. Union soldiers went through the South reading small copies of the proclamation to everyone.
On June 19, 1865, 2,000 Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger, arrived in Galveston Texas where Granger read the proclamation, thus formally informing the approximately 250,000 enslaved people in Texas that they were free. Granger was a New Yorker from the hamlet of Joy in the town of Sodus, Wayne County. The formerly enslaved people celebrated Emancipation Day on June 19th and it has become Juneteenth which is a celebration of Freedom and is our second Independence Day.
The first Juneteenth celebration occurred on June 19,1866 in Galveston to mark the first anniversary of the announcement. In the years that followed, Juneteenth celebrations included a return to Galveston to celebrate the announcement on June 19th and informing formerly enslaved individuals how to vote. Now, celebrations are marked with block parties, cookouts, parades, musical performances and other public events.
Juneteenth is known as Freedom Day, Emancipation Day and Juneteenth Independence Day among other names. Juneteenth became an official holiday in Texas in 1980 and many other states followed. It became a federal holiday on June 17, 2021. Opal Lee made it her mission to make sure it became a federal holiday by marching 2.5 miles (to mark the nearly 2.5 years from the signing of the proclamation to the announcement in Galveston) and petitioning to make it happen among other actions. She was an honored guest at the ceremony where the law making it a federal holiday was signed by President Joe Biden.
Sources: Smithsonian Institute, National Museum of African American History and Cultural, New York State Parks and Historic Sites, Library of Congress
New York Public Library - Juneteenth at NYPL
Library of Congress Digital Collection - Today in History - June 19
Smithsonian Institute, National Museum of African American History and Cultural - The historical legacy of Juneteenth.
New York State Parks and Historic Sites - Juneteenth Coming to Terms with Freedom.