Quinnipiac University

What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth

President Joe Biden made history on June 17 by signing a bill into law establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated day of observance marking the end of slavery in the United States.

On June 19, 1865 — more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was enacted — the United States Army read orders in Galveston, Texas, stating all formally enslaved Africans were free.

Also known as “Emancipation Day,” “Freedom Day,” and “Jubilee Day,” Juneteenth commemorates this liberation of the last of the enslaved Africans in the United States. Celebration of the day began the following year.

Road to a federal holiday

Juneteenth was recognized as recently as last year as a state holiday or day of observance in 47 of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia. Celebrations have long been held across the country.

The day is often marked with events like parades, rodeos, races, music and arts festivals, and cookouts. Family gatherings are a staple of this holiday as it reminds people of the importance of unity and strength. 

Significance for American history

The day marks an important moment in the history of this country, but it also embodies the spirit of what true union should look like in America. As nationwide Black Lives Matter protests continuously call for equity and equality, we are reminded of the history of Black people in this country and their fight for liberation and justice.

Learn more at the National Museum of African American History and Culture

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