Juneteenth National Independence Day is also called Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day, Freedom Day Black Independence Day and Juneteenth Independence Day.
Juneteenth recognizes June 19, 1865 as the date when U.S. Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved African Americans of their freedom and the end of the Civil War.
Although President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, many Confederate-controlled states did not enforce it until the Civil War ended in April 1865.
As enslaved people learned of their freedom, they began to celebrate by wearing new clothes as a way of shedding their oppression. They also celebrated with prayer gatherings, parades, cookouts, historical and cultural readings, musical performances and dances. Many of these traditions continue in Juneteenth celebrations today.
In 1872, a group of African American ministers and businessmen purchased 10 acres of land in Houston, Texas, and created Emancipation Park. They intended to hold the city’s annual Juneteenth celebration there. It is the oldest park in the city of Houston.
In 2021, the state of Texas and the Juneteenth Legacy Project (JLP) dedicated a 5,000 square-foot mural, entitled “Absolute Equality,” on the spot where General Granger told enslaved African Americans they were free. The mural also highlights the work of activist and educator, Opal Lee, who campaigned to make June 19 a national holiday. In 2016, at the age of 89, Ms. Lee walked from her home in Fort Worth to Washington, D.C. for the cause.
From the JLP website: “She traveled two and a half miles each day to symbolize the two and a half years that black Texans waited between when Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, on Jan. 1, 1863, abolishing slavery, and the day that message arrived in Galveston, where black people were still enslaved, on June 19, 1865.”
You can visit the National Archives Rediscovering Black History website to learn more about the history of Juneteenth and see original documents, photos and other materials.