What Is Juneteenth?

Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders

Juneteenth, a holiday observed on June 19, is considered by many to be the “African American Emancipation Day.” First observed in 1865, it is the the oldest nationwide celebration of the end of slavery in the United States. The name Juneteenth is derived from the fusion of the words June and nineteenth.

Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in America.
Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in America.

On 19 June 1865, Union General Gordon Granger and his troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to enforce the new freedoms granted to former slaves by the signing of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Until then, the minimal Union presence in the Texas region meant that the vast majority of African Americans were still living in virtual bondage.

Juneteenth is recognized as an official state holiday in Alaska.
Juneteenth is recognized as an official state holiday in Alaska.

Juneteenth celebrations serve an important function in that the popular portrayal of Independence Day ignores the issue of slavery and the effects of the Emancipation Proclamation completely. For this reason, many of the larger festivities resemble parties you might expect to see on the Fourth of July.

The function of Juneteenth has changed somewhat over the years. Originally, the event had strong religious undertones. Then, after the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution gave black men the right to vote in 1870, Juneteenth was used as a platform to teach African Americans about the United States political process and their new found voting rights. After falling out of favor around the time of World War II, Juneteenth returned again as a chance to promote cultural pride during the 1970s. Today, celebrations are used as a time to reflect on the African American experience as well as encourage respect for other cultures.

The festival can be observed in many different ways, including as part of a larger week or month long celebration of African American culture. On Juneteenth, libraries and government organizations often create displays to honor African American history. Large corporations hold diversity seminars to discuss African American experiences in the business world. Churches and civic organizations hold barbecue cookouts, blues festivals, baseball games, dances, parades, rodeos, lectures, and other special events to provide African American community members with a chance to come together. Since Juneteenth is meant to be a time of reflection, there is no “right” way to mark the occasion.

Since Juneteenth began in Galveston, Texas, it should come as no surprise that it has been a Texas state holiday since 1980. It is also recognized as an official holiday in states such as New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, California, and Alaska. Several large cities, including Milwaukee and Minneapolis, also host official community-wide celebrations.

President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was issued on on January 1, 1863.
President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was issued on on January 1, 1863.
Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders

Dana holds a B.A. in journalism and mass communication from the University of Iowa. She has loved being part of the wiseGEEK team ever since discovering the joys of freelance writing after her son was born. Dana also hones her writing skills by contributing articles to various blogs, as well as creating sales copy and content for e-courses.

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Discussion Comments


When they pay every living African American for their part in the economic founding of the United States, for 350 years of back wages, for toiling in the fields, for their contributions that made America a world power, then we will have something.


My birthday is June 19, 1974. when i found out what happened on my birthday many decades ago, i became instantly honored to be born on that day. There are still a lot of people who has either never heard of Juneteenth day or who has no clue of what juneteenth stands for. I proudly educate those who i come across regarding that very special day.


Juneteenth, America's 2nd Independence Day Celebration, the "19th of June", 1865, is the date that we join our ancestors, Americans of African descent, who celebrated when they heard the announcement of freedom made by Union General Gordon Granger.

There is an old adage, "none are free until all are free", which also fits the Juneteenth Celebration well. It took over two and a half years for the news of freedom to make it to southwest Texas, the last vestige of slavery in America.

Juneteenth is recognized as a state holiday or state holiday observance in 26 states and the Congress of the United States.

Together we will see Juneteenth become a national Holiday in America!


Rev. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D.


National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign

National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF)

National Juneteenth Christian Leadership Council (NJCLC)

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