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Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. It is also known as Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, and Black Independence Day.
On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery.
On that day in 1865, Major General Granger read General Order No. 3 to the people of Galveston. It stated:
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. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
Although the Emancipation Proclamation came 2 1/2 years earlier on January 1, 1863, many slave owners continued to hold their slaves captive after the announcement, so Juneteenth became a symbolic date representing African American freedom.
Juneteenth is a combination of “June” and “nineteenth,” in honor of the day that Major General Granger announced the abolition of slavery in Texas.
July 4 is America’s birthday. On this day in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed, freeing the country from British rule, BUT that freedom didn’t apply to Black people. Slavery was still legal when the Constitution was signed, and slaves weren’t granted freedom until almost 90 years later.
It is important to celebrate Juneteenth because it represents Independence Day for Black people in the U.S. and serves as a reminder for their continued fight for equity and freedom.
The Juneteenth Flag was created by the Founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation (NJCF), Ben Haith, in 1997. The flag underwent a revision in the year 2000 resulting in its present modern-day design. In 2007, the phrase “June 19, 1865” was added to the flag to place the historic date that Juneteenth occurred in Galveston, Texas.
On Wednesday, June 16, 2021 the House of Representatives voted 415-14 to make Juneteenth the 12th federal holiday. The bill then went to President Joe Biden’s desk and he signed it into law on Thursday, June 17.
Juneteenth is the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983.
The vast majority of states recognize Juneteenth as a holiday or have an official observance of the day, and most states hold celebrations. Juneteenth is a paid holiday for state employees in Texas, New York, Virginia, and Washington.
Under the legislation, the federal holiday would be known as Juneteenth National Independence Day.
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