Juneteenth 2022: Everything You Need to Know About Juneteenth

This year is the 157th anniversary of the holiday, which marks the end of slavery in the United States

Juneteenth flag
Photo: Nati Harnik/AP/Shutterstock

For 157 years now, the Black community has celebrated Juneteenth, a day that marks the end of slavery and the independence of countless enslaved people that actually came two-and-a-half years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

The holiday, also known as Black Independence Day, hasn't been widely taught in schools. However, on June 18, 2021, it was declared a federal holiday after President Joe Biden signed a bill passed by both the House and Senate making it so. Here are some things you should know about the nation's latest federal holiday.

What Is Juneteenth?

The longest-running African-American holiday in the United States, Juneteenth is short for June Nineteenth, and marks the day that slavery ended in America.

Abraham Lincoln welcomes freed slaves in Richmond, Virginia. ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty

The Emancipation Proclamation, which abolished slavery, was issued by Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863, but it took until 1865 for the last enslaved people to be freed. That's because the proclamation only applied to places under Confederate control, but people in Confederate states weren't the only ones who enslaved people of African descent. In fact, there were border states and rebel territories that continued to keep enslaved people. Texas, as a result, actually became a hotspot for enslavers who fled their states with the people they were enslaving.

On June 19, 1865, federal troops, led by General Gordon Granger, arrived in Galveston, Texas, and took control of the state, marking the official end of slavery as the state's 250,000 enslaved people were freed.

The year 2022 marks the 157th anniversary of the holiday.

Was Juneteenth the End of Slavery?

Although General Granger announced that all enslaved people were to be freed, enslavers and plantation owners were left to announce the news and often waited until after the harvest season or until a government official came to enforce the proclamation themselves.

Because the Emancipation Proclamation also did not apply to states in the Union, remaining enslaved people were not liberated until the 13th amendment was ratified on Dec. 18, 1865.

Even after the ratification of the 13th amendment, Black people were often forced into other forms of servitude and a new type of slavery.

When Was the First Juneteenth Celebration?

Dylan Buell/Getty

In 1866, the first Juneteenth was celebrated in Texas and was known as "Freedom Day" and then "Jubilee Day."

It included prayer services, barbecues, music and celebrations that eventually spread across the country as the newly freed Black people moved throughout the nation.

Is Juneteenth a Federal Holiday?

2015 Juneteenth celebration in Denver. Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty

Now it is, though it's been a long road to get there. Texas was the first state to recognize Juneteenth as an official state holiday in 1979. Today, all 50 states and Washington, D.C., recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday or day of observance, according to the Congressional Research Service.

On a national level, in June 2021, both the Senate and the House swiftly passed legislation to establish the day as a federal holiday. On June 18, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the bill into law.

"I have to say to you, I have only been president for several months, but I think this will go down, for me, as one of the greatest honors I will have as president," Biden said, "not because I did it, you did it, Democrats and Republicans."

"It's an enormous, enormous honor," he added.

"For too long, we have tried to whitewash our nation's history instead of confronting the uncomfortable and painful truth," said Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) of S.475, per WITI. "This legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday is but one step we can take to begin to right the wrongs of the past and ensure equal justice in the future."

How Can I Celebrate Juneteenth?

Juneteenth Lincoln Museum
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Events are happening across the country. Here are some other ways you can celebrate Juneteenth:

  • Frequent or donate to a small, Black-owned business.
  • Attend a virtual gathering, whether it's a Zoom celebration put on by a museum, your local library, or a virtual shopping event to support Black-owned businesses.
  • Tune in to special programming, such as Sound of Freedom: A Juneteenth Celebration on ABC Friday at 8 p.m. ET and streaming on Hulu. The show will be hosted by Jimmie Allen and include performances by Patti LaBelle and Jon Batiste.
  • If the weather's nice, have an outdoor gathering with a group of friends or family and take time to review the history of Juneteenth and its significance.
  • Donate to causes that help fight racial injustice like:
    • Campaign Zero, which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
    • ColorofChange.org, which works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
    • National Cares Mentoring Movement, which provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.
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