Juneteenth National Independence Day Date in the current year: June 19, 2024

Juneteenth National Independence Day Emancipation Day is an annual observance in many countries across the world that commemorates the emancipation of slaves. In the United States, it is a federal holiday observed on June 19, commemorating the emancipation of slaves in Texas on that day in 1865. Its official name is Juneteenth National Independence Day.

Slavery was one of the main causes of the American Civil War between the South (the Confederacy) and the North (the Union) that began in 1861. On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that all slaves in the Confederate States of America in rebellion were to be freed on January 1, 1863.

Since Texas was the most remote and isolated of the slave states, as well as not a battleground, Texan slaves were not emancipated. Moreover, slaveholders and planters from other southern states began to migrate to Texas, bringing their slaves with them. As a result, by the final year of the war, there were about a quarter of a million slaves in Texas.

On June 18, 1865, Texas finally surrendered to the Union Army. The following day, Union Army General Gordon Granger announced the emancipation of all enslaved people in Texas, making Texas the last state to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. The anniversary of this event, June 19, is now observed as Emancipation Day.

Because of its date, Emancipation Day is commonly referred to as Juneteenth, a portmanteau of the words “June” and “nineteenth”. Other names of the observance include the Black Fourth of July, Black Independence Day, Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, and Cel-Libation Day.

Juneteenth has been a federal holiday since 2021. Its official name is Juneteenth National Independence Day. It is marked by various events that celebrate African-American history and heritage, including readings of works by noted African-American authors, historical reenactments, Miss Juneteenth contests, street fairs, cookouts, family reunions, rodeos, etc.

In addition to Juneteenth, several states observe their own Emancipation Day. For example, in Florida, a special observance takes place on May 20. In the state capital of Tallahassee, Civil War reenactors act out the speech Major General Edward McCook gave on that day in 1865, reading the Emancipation Proclamation in Florida for the first time.

In the District of Columbia, Emancipation Day is observed on April 16 to commemorate the day in 1862 when Abraham Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act, ending slavery in the District of Columbia and providing slaveholders with partial compensation for freeing their slaves. In 2005, Mayor of the District of Columbia declared Emancipation Day an official public holiday. When April 16 falls during a weekend, it is observed on the nearest weekday.

In Columbus, Mississippi, Emancipation Day is observed on May 8, commemorating the emancipation of slaves in eastern Mississippi (interestingly, Mississippi ratified the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery only in 2017). Finally, in some parts of Kentucky and Tennessee, Emancipation Day is observed on August 8.

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Juneteenth National Independence Day Juneteenth, Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, holidays in the United States, federal holidays