Recognizing Juneteenth

This Saturday, June 19, 2021, is Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the day in 1865 that Union soldiers reached Texas and the African Americans living there, who only then learned that President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, declaring freedom for the more than three million slaves living in the Confederate states.  When the soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas with the news of freedom the former slaves began to celebrate immediately.

The next year, on June 19, 1866, official celebrations took place in Texas.  In 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday in Texas.  New York recognized Juneteenth as an official holiday in 2020 as has Massachusetts, Virginia, and Oregon.  The majority of other states make it a day of recognition or a day of observance.  Just this week, the United States Senate passed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, establishing June 19 as a legal public holiday.

Visit the National Archives newsletter (National Archives News) to read about Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and former NYLS faculty member Annette Gordon-Reed’s June 2nd talk at the National Archives about her new book, On Juneteenth.  The National Archives also launched an online exhibit regarding Juneteenth, which is available here.