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What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth flag
Pan African flag often used for Juneteenth celebrations

¿Qué es Juneteenth?

Many Americans across the United States are new to hearing about Juneteenth, however it is not a new holiday. It has been celebrated annually by many since the 1860s. Juneteenth is a celebration of African American freedom and culture. The holiday commemorates the abolition of slavery in this country.

Attendees at a Juneteenth celebration, in Austin, Texas, 1900


While President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation took effect on January 1, 1863, stating “that all persons held as slaves are, and henceforward shall be free,” slavery continued in several states including Texas. Over two years later on June 19, 1865, news reached Galveston, Texas that the American Civil War had ended and that the 250,000+ African Americans enslaved were free by executive decree.

Although Juneteenth celebrates the end of those enslaved, slavery was not officially abolished until the 13th amendment of the U.S. constitution was ratified on December 6, 1865.


The birth of a holiday

Juneteenth has been celebrated by many Americans since the 1860s and has been a public holiday in the state of Texas since 1979. On June 17, 2021, President Joseph R. Biden officially signed into law declaring Juneteenth National Independence Day a federal holiday.


The name Juneteenth is a portmanteau of “June” and “nineteenth.”

Why Juneteenth matters

Juneteenth highlights freedom and equality in the United States but it is also about recognizing to continued existence of racism in society. The emancipation of enslaved African Americans did not equate to having fair treatment and equal rights, even to this day.

President Joe Biden signs bill into law making Juneteenth a national public holiday. It unanimously passed the U.S. senate and passed the U.S. House by 415-14.

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