On Thursday, June 17, 2021, after unanimous passage in the United States Senate and subsequent passage in the House, President Biden signed a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday. Also known as Emancipation Day, Juneteenth commemorates the day that enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, received news that they had been freed—more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Many states, including Texas, have long recognized Juneteenth, but only some observe it as an official holiday. This bill makes Juneteenth a national holiday.
From the Encyclopedia of Emancipation and Abolition in the Transatlantic World
“The holiday known as Juneteenth, so called because it is celebrated annually on June 19, is the oldest commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States. Recognized as Emancipation Day among African Americans, it marks the anniversary of the official freeing of slaves in Texas on June 19, 1865, in Galveston. Just as the Fourth of July celebrates liberty for all American people, for descendants of former slaves, Juneteenth symbolizes the attainment of freedom. Honoring the legacy of struggle and perseverance on the part of African Americans throughout their enslavement, Juneteenth also serves as a day of reflection on African American progress.
On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger and a regiment of Union soldiers arrived in Galveston. Gathering a crowd of slaves and slave owners, Granger read General Order No. 3, which officially declared the emancipation of Texan slaves. Despite widespread rumors of liberation, this declaration of freedom came nearly two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, giving freedom to all slaves who resided in states in rebellion against the Union.”In Rodriguez, J. P., & Ackerson, W. (2015). Encyclopedia of emancipation and abolition in the Transatlantic world.
The General Orders, No. 3 reads:
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
You can read the entire Juneteenth article on the Texas State Library’s website. You can also find out more at the Juneteenth article in the Handbook of Texas.
Additional resources for your library
- Juneteenth Resource list by Ayesha Hawkins, Arlington Public Library
- Juneteenth: Celebrating Liberation by Roxanne Bogucka, University of Texas Libraries Diversity Action Committee
- Juneteenth LibGuide by Esther Camacho, McAllen Pubic Library
- Celebrate Juneteenth by Morgan Yoshimura, San Antonio Public Library
Did your library host a Juneteenth celebration this year? Feel free to share in the comments or by completing this form by going to https://bit.ly/inclusiveservices.