Juneteenth: What to know about the historical celebration that's now a federal holiday (2024)

Three years after it was made a federal holiday, Juneteenth 2024 marks a day of celebration as well as education.

The federal holiday known as “Second Independence Day,” marks the day the last African American slaves were notified that they had been freed from their masters, the National Museum of African American History and Culture said.

Dr. Tim Goler, a professor of urban affairs and sociology courses and director of research for the Center for African American Public Policy at Norfolk State University, told USA TODAY that Juneteenth or "Freedom Day" is a day that shows the "beauty of our culture" that everyone should participate in.

The origins of Juneteenth date back to June 19, 1865 – more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation - when the Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced the end of the Civil War and the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, Goler said.

“This delay and the enforcement of the emancipation in Texas was due to a lack of enforcement until this general arrived," Goler said. "Then Juneteenth thus became this kind of powerful symbol of freedom and the long struggle for civil rights."

The Juneteenth National Independence DayAct was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in June 2021. The bill was signed by President Joe Biden on June 17, 2021, which officially made the day a federal holiday.

Here's what you need to know about Juneteenth.

Juneteenth: What to know about the historical celebration that's now a federal holiday (1)

An African American holiday:Predating Juneteenth was nearly lost to history. It's back.

Black History, Juneteenth becoming more cemented in fabric of US

Although Juneteenth is now becoming a part of the conversation regarding Black History, there was a time when Black History was not widely discussed within the educational system, especially for historians, said Dr. Alan Singer, a professor of teaching, learning and technology at Hofstra University who writes about the history of slavery and racism.

“I didn't learn it (until) I was an adult, really (in the) 1990s, when as a teacher, I started studying more, so I (could) incorporate it into my lessons,” he said. “I went to City College in the 1960s and they had first introduced a course called ‘American Negro History’ and that was the first time I had learned about any of these things. I took the course because I became a political activist while at City College and I needed to know more about the African American civil rights struggles.”

Singer also adds that he attended high school during the Civil Rights Movement and was never taught about Black History. To change that, he decided to educate himself more to properly teach his students.

“I just felt a heavy responsibility as a teacher to really present a much more accurate picture of the history of the United States,” he said.

Goler adds that Juneteenth has been recognized for years within the Black community and history. Now, the day has become more publicly known.

"In recent years, Juneteenth has gained a much wider recognition. It's only been since 2021 that it became that designated as a federal holiday," he said. "Many Black people and Black communities around the country have celebrated Juneteenth. It's just becoming much more wider and much more visible now."

Commercialization of Juneteenth

Since Juneteenth has been declared a federal holiday, many retailers have unveiled Juneteenth attire through clothing, footwear, hats and other merchandise.

"The question is, 'who benefits from the commercialization of Juneteenth?' I’d definitely like to see more African American (and) more Black businesses benefit," Goler said. "The trend of commercialization, we risk the overshadowing of the historical context, and the ongoing struggle for racial equality that Juneteenth represents."

Singer hopes that companies that are selling Juneteenth products are also advocating for more inclusivity.

“What I'm arguing is that what we need to do is to use a day like Juneteenth as a launching pad to build a more just society,” he said. “It should not just be about the past, it has to be about the future.”

Goler hopes that the holiday will bring everyone together but also educate them about this important day in Black History.

"I think as we observe Juneteenth, it's important to focus on the education, reflection, the community engagement aspect and really ensure that the day remains of a pungent reminder of our continued and enduring fight for freedom and justice," he said.

Ahjané Forbes is a reporter on the National Trending Team at USA TODAY. Ahjané covers breaking news, car recalls, crime, health, lottery and public policy stories. Email her ataforbes@gannett.com. Follow her onInstagram,ThreadsandX (Twitter).

Juneteenth: What to know about the historical celebration that's now a federal holiday (2024)


Juneteenth: What to know about the historical celebration that's now a federal holiday? ›

On June 19, 1865 slaves in Galveston, Texas were given the news that they were freed by President Abraham Lincoln. Now, the day is a holiday that celebrates the "Second Independence Day" in America. Three years after it was made a federal holiday, Juneteenth 2024 marks a day of celebration as well as education.

What is Juneteenth and why is it a federal holiday? ›

On June 19, 1865, freedom finally came for the 250,000 enslaved people of Texas. That day, which would become known as Juneteenth, the Army arrived to enforce what had already been the law of the land for two and a half years — the Emancipation Proclamation.

What is the historical significance of Juneteenth? ›

Juneteenth is an often overlooked event in our nation's history. On June 19, 1865, Union troops freed enslaved African Americans in Galveston Bay and across Texas some two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

What do you learn about and celebrate Juneteenth? ›

For more than one-and-a-half centuries, the Juneteenth holiday has been sacred to many Black communities. It marks the day in 1865 enslaved people in Galveston, Texas found out they had been freed — after the end of the Civil War, and two years after President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.

Who was president when Juneteenth became a holiday? ›

“I first learned about Juneteenth while I was serving as the brigade command sergeant major for 1ABCT (1st Armored Brigade Combat Team), 1st Calvary Division, while deployed to Poland in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, when it was signed into law by President Joe Biden and became a federal holiday,” said Command ...

What happened on June 19th in history? ›

signed into law the bill that established Juneteenth National Independence Day, June 19, as a legal public holiday. Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the date Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and delivered General Order No. 3 announcing the end of legalized slavery in Texas.

How is Juneteenth celebrated today? ›

Within a few years, African Americans in many other states were celebrating the day as well, making it an annual tradition. Today, many Juneteenth celebrations include prayer and religious services, speeches, educational events, family gatherings and picnics, and festivals with music, food, and dancing.

What are three facts about Juneteenth? ›

Fun Facts About Juneteenth

Some cities and groups have Miss Junteenth contests. Strawberry soda pop was once a popular drink associated with celebrating the day. There is a Juneteenth Flag of Freedom. It is half red and half blue with a star in the middle.

Why is Juneteenth important to me? ›

The celebration of Juneteenth today is important because it helps initiate difficult conversations and raises awareness about the country's complicated and tragic history of slavery and racial injustice, Mauldin said.

How does a white person celebrate Juneteenth? ›

For non-Black allies, Juneteenth is a great opportunity to show solidarity by volunteering your time and/or resources to support Black community members. Consider volunteering at a Juneteenth event, giving money directly to Black community members, or working with local Black-led organizations.

Who helped Juneteenth become a holiday? ›

Perhaps no two people promoted the commemoration more vigorously than activist and founder of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, Rev. Ronald V. Myers Sr., M.D. (1956–2018), and 96-year-old Texan and community leader Opal Lee, whom many consider the “Grandmother of Juneteenth.”

Which president put an end to slavery? ›

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war. The proclamation declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free."

Who created the Juneteenth flag? ›

The founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation, Ben Haith, created the Juneteenth flag with illustrator Lisa Jeanne Graf in 1997.

Is there mail delivery on Juneteenth? ›

The United States Postal Service recognizes Juneteenth on June 19 as one of 11 federal holidays and is closed. There is no mail delivery, caller service, or Post Office Box service.

Will Juneteenth be a federal paid holiday? ›

Since President Joe Biden officially recognized Juneteenth as "Juneteenth National Independence Day" in 2021, federal employees now receive a paid holiday for June 19. This holiday includes employees who work for federal government offices and courts, banks, post offices, schools, and U.S. financial markets.

What is the true story behind Juneteenth? ›

Dating back to 1865, Juneteenth commemorates the day when 250,000 slaves in the state of Texas, which became the last bastion for slavery during the final days of the Civil War, were declared free by the U.S. Army.

Are businesses closed on Juneteenth? ›

Banks and post offices will be closed on Wednesday, June 19 in observance of Juneteenth, however major restaurant, grocery and retail store chains will remain open on the holiday. Companies such as Target, Walmart, Starbucks, and Costco, among many others, will keep their doors open on the federal holiday this year.

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