Date Posted: 6/16/2022
Juneteenth, known also as "Black Independence Day," "Jubilee Day," and "Emancipation Day," is a national holiday—celebrated on June 19—that commemorates the day news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached enslaved people in Galveston. The word “Juneteenth” combines the word “June” with the number 19. It is the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday was approved almost 30 years ago.
A bill to recognize Juneteenth as a federal holiday passed both chambers of Congress and was signed into law by President Joe Biden on June 17, 2021. The Juneteenth National Independence Day Act was a bipartisan effort led by Texans U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee—fitting as Texas was the first state to recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday in 1980.
Although it’s often cited as America’s second Independence Day and one of the most popular annual celebrations of emancipation from slavery in the country, many Americans still don’t know about this important holiday.
The origins of Juneteenth began on June 19, 1865, when Union Major-General Gordon Granger and his troops brought news to Galveston that the American Civil War was over and that the 13th Amendment had ended the institution of slavery two-and-a-half years prior.
Juneteenth observations and celebrations have steadily grown in popularity and are now found across the country, with everything from festivals and parades to parties and barbecues. As this country continues to strive for full equality and justice for all Americans, the importance of celebrating and acknowledging Juneteenth has never been more vital.
Here’s a list of resources you can use at home or in the classroom to better appreciate and teach Juneteenth:
- This post from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission is good place to start and includes links to more information.
- Visit the website of the National Museum of African American History & Culture for a wide variety of resources for this year’s commemoration.
- Michael Hurd, director of the Texas Institute for the Preservation of History and Culture at Prairie View A&M University, writes in Texas Highways about his understanding of Juneteenth from a young boy to his job as a historian.
- Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Texan Annette Gordon-Reed breaks down the history surrounding this important holiday in this video.
- Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. provides a history lesson on Juneteenth.
- This blog post from Edutopia lists four ways to celebrate Juneteenth with students.