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Updated: Jun 8, 2023

What is Juneteenth?

Although the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in the South in 1863, it could not be enforced in many places until after the end of the Civil War in 1865. On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas. He informed the enslaved African Americans of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended. That was more than two months after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in Virginia. This momentous occasion has been celebrated as Juneteenth — a combination of June and 19 — for over 150 years.

The holiday has also been called Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day. It is a day of prayer, remembrance, appreciation of Black culture, and joyous celebration in homage to the incredible endurance, tireless activism, and the power of the Black community.

What words did the enslaved people hear from General Granger?

General Order No. 3 was read: “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.”

When did Juneteenth become a federal holiday?

President Joe Biden signed the bill on June 17, 2021, making Juneteenth the eleventh American federal holiday and the first to obtain legal observance as a federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was designated in 1983. The senate approved the bill unanimously.

How can I observe Juneteenth?

  1. Listen to first person recountings of Juneteenth. The Library of Congress’s “Voices from the Days of Slavery” presentation contains several interviews with formerly enslaved Texans.

  2. Read essays and and view images at websites of the Library of Congress, The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and (search: Juneteenth).

  3. Attend a local Juneteenth celebration such as the Cobb NAACP’s annual Juneteenth celebration on the Marietta Square

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