In 2021, President Joe Biden signed legislation establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday; the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday was approved in 1983.
After arriving in Galveston, TX on June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger, alongside Union soldiers, brought the news with them that the American Civil War ended and enslaved people were now free. In total, it took 2.5 years for the news to spread throughout Texas after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became official January 1, 1863. Two years later, the 13th Amendment was ratified, freeing enslaved people throughout the country.
Today, all 50 states and Washington D.C. recognize Juneteenth as a holiday or observance. The day is celebrated with barbecues, festivals, parades, and much more.
“Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory, or an acceptance of the way things are. It’s a celebration of progress. It’s an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, change is possible—and there is still so much work to do.” – Barack Obama