Although the end of slavery in the United States has been celebrated annually in various places since 1865, it’s only been declared an official federal holiday for one year! In 2021, Juneteenth became the first new federal holiday since 1983 when Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created.
Juneteenth (June 19th) commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States. When President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation stating that “all persons held as slaves” in the rebelling Confederate states “are, and henceforward shall be free,” this didn’t mean all enslaved people were automatically freed. Despite the proclamation, slavery continued in Texas, the westernmost Confederate state.
About two and a half years after Lincoln issued the proclamation, and just over two months after the war ended, federal troops entered Galveston, Texas, on June 19th, 1865, to ensure that all enslaved people – roughly 250,000 of them – were emancipated. They were the last people in the country to learn that they were free.
The celebration of Juneteenth encourages all Americans to acknowledge this part of history and observe the richness of African American culture and the resiliency of its people.
Early Juneteenth celebrations included church services, public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, and social events like rodeos and dances. However, as the Civil Rights movement gained momentum in the ‘60s, Juneteenth celebrations faded. In recent years, Juneteenth has regained popularity and is often celebrated with food, community, and bringing awareness to ongoing issues.
Organizers suggest spending the day with loved ones and finding a local Juneteenth event to attend. Jacksonville is hosting a concert at Daily’s Place on June 18th, featuring live performances from top-tier Gospel Artists, vendors, and a youth showcase. Find more information here.