Juneteenth: History and Celebration

When Was Juneteenth First Celebrated?

Juneteenth celebrates African American freedom from slavery in the U.S., and is the oldest holiday celebrating Emancipation in the country. The holiday honors June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger led Union soldiers into Galveston, Texas and announced the end of the Civil War and the abolishment of slavery. The arrival of Union troops marked the enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation which had been signed by President Abraham Lincoln 2 ½ years prior in 1863, but had not been enacted in Texas (Juneteenth.com).

Over the years, the holiday celebrating African American freedom grew in Texas and nationally. It became an official state holiday in Texas in 1980. According to Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s article What is Juneteenth?, since 1980 over 40 states and Washington, D.C. now observe Juneteenth as a state holiday or with holiday observance. Though Juneteenth has a long history and has grown over the years, this Smithsonian blog post explains that many Americans were not aware of it. Today the holiday’s history and significance is becoming more widely known. This year New York, Virginia, and others have made plans to recognize it as a holiday. This June 16, 2020 article from the New York Times highlights the importance of Juneteenth in light of the murder of George Floyd and recent national protests calling for change.

According to Juneteenth.com, the holiday celebrating African American freedom has included family gatherings, sports, food, games, and more. Though this year (June 2020) communities may be remaining careful due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we hope you enjoy celebrating this significant holiday and encourage you to learn more about Juneteenth.

Learn More With These Online Resources:

Ebooks from the RLB Library Related to the Emancipation Proclamation and Juneteenth

Search the RLB Library’s Catalog and Databases for More Resources!

Interested in Archival Resources on Juneteenth? 

ArchiveGrid is an online searchable collection of more than 5 million finding aids and descriptions for archival collections from archives and repositories all over the world.

If you’re interested in conducting archival research related to Juneteenth or the Emancipation Proclamation, check out ArchiveGrid and use the search box at the top of the page to search for archival collections and repositories.

A search for “Juneteenth” on ArchiveGrid brings up 650 results!

Search for archival collections in ArchiveGrid

We hope you enjoy learning more about and celebrating Juneteenth this year and every year on June 19th

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