What is Juneteenth? 5 things to know about the longest-running African American holiday
Juneteenth, a combination of "June" and "nineteenth," is considered the longest-running African American holiday. It commemorates the date when hundreds of thousands of enslaved men and women in Texas finally learned they had been freed in 1865.
Below is what you need to know about the date:
1. What is Juneteenth?
June 19, 1865 marks the day when it was announced that slaves were freed in Galveston, Texas, following the end of the Civil War. However, that announcement came more than two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth honors the end to slavery in the United States and is considered the longest-running African American holiday.
2. Is Juneteenth a federal holiday?
In 2021, Congress voted to make Juneteenth the 12th federal holiday. Before the vote, it was already a state holiday in New York and New Jersey.
3. Why has Juneteenth become so important in the last year?
In 2020, there was a renewed interest in the day that celebrates freedom, following nationwide protests over police brutality and the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other Black Americans.
4. What is the historical significance of Juneteenth?
Kelly E. Navies, oral historian for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, talks about the history and significance of Juneteenth in the video below. She also shares her family's tradition of celebrating the holiday.
5. How is Juneteenth celebrated?
Juneteenth is celebrated across the country with street fairs, parades, and concerts. National Juneteenth Observance Foundation President Steve Williams also encourages readings of the Emancipation Proclamation.