Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the U.S.
Updated: Legislation news revised.
Juneteenth, June 19, celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. It marks
the date of June 19, 1865 – about two months after the surrender of Confederate General
Robert E. Lee – when Union Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas,
and announced the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery.
The date is largely symbolic. The Emancipation Proclamation, issued by President Abraham Lincoln, legally freed enslaved African Americans on Jan. 1, 1863 – some 2 1/2 years earlier. However, many slave owners withheld that information to retain slave labor through another harvest season. Juneteenth – combining June and 19 – became a date representing African American freedom. It is also called Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, or Juneteenth Independence Day.
Texas celebrated Juneteenth beginning in 1866 with community events such as parades, cookouts, prayer gatherings, historical readings and musical performances. As families emigrated from Texas to other parts of the United States, they carried the Juneteenth celebrations with them. In 1872, a group of African American ministers and businessmen in Houston purchased 10 acres of land for Emancipation Park. While celebrations continue to take place among families and organizations, larger cities have increasingly created citywide festivals and parades to commemorate Juneteenth.
In 1980, Texas became the first state to designate Juneteenth as a holiday. Since then, at least 45 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation recognizing it as a holiday or observance. On June 15 and 16, 2021, Congress passed legislation to establish June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, making it a U.S. federal holiday. President Joe Biden signed the bill into law on June 17. (Note: the N.C. General Assembly will still have to authorize it before it becomes a paid holiday for UNC System employees). In light of recent national unrest about racial injustice and systemic racism, many businesses – such as Twitter, the N.F.L., Target and Nike – have moved toward making it a company holiday.
To learn more about Juneteenth, visit Juneteenth.com and the Congressional Research Service fact sheet. The Winston-Salem Journal reports there will be numerous events in the area to celebrate Juneteenth. Winston-Salem Monthly also lists various events and commemorates Black history in the area.
Contact: Marla Carpenter
Updated: June 17, 2021