[5 MIN READ]
In this article:
Juneteenth celebrates the day when thousands of Black people in Texas learned they had been freed from slavery.
On June 19, 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bill marking Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
There are celebrations across the country on this important day. Learn more about its history, and about how it became a federal holiday.
For the last 158 years, Juneteenth has been a significant milestone in American culture. It marks the date — June 19, 1865 — when thousands of Black men and women in Texas learned they had been freed from slavery.
Since then, among people of many different races, the day has become known as a time to celebrate resilience and resistance. It had such a great impact that some people have called it “America’s second Independence Day.”
Still, many people are unfamiliar with the significance of Juneteenth — primarily because while it is celebrated in 47 states, it was never a federal holiday until 2021. On June 17, President Joe Biden signed a bill marking the day as a national holiday.
So what’s the story of Juneteenth, and why has that story resonated with so many people over the last century and a half?
Facts about Juneteenth
- Here are a few important facts about the history of this important holiday:
- During the height of the U.S. Civil War on Jan. 1, 1863, President Lincoln enacted the Emancipation Proclamation through an executive order. It declared Black people in the Confederate States free from enslavement.
- It is worth mentioning that President Lincoln was not the president of the Confederate States at the time of his proclamation; however, it motivated more than 200,000 formerly enslaved people to join the U.S. Army and fight for others still in bondage.
- On April 9, 1865, the Confederate States surrendered, marking the end of the four-year-long war.
- On June 19, 1865, U.S. Army General Gordon Granger visited Galveston, Texas, and read aloud General Order No. 3, which informed everyone about the end of the war and freedom for Black people.
- Delaware and Kentucky were neutral during the Civil War, and thus still enslaved people until the ratification of the 13th amendment of the U.S. Constitution on December 6, 1865, which abolished chattel slavery nationwide (except as a punishment for being convicted of a crime).
- There are other Emancipation (or Freedom) Days celebrated throughout the United States that are not well-known, including: Washington D.C., April 16; Florida, May 20; Georgia, last Saturday of May; Tennessee, August 8; and Mississippi, May 8.
The history of Juneteenth celebrations
In the early years, few non-Black Americans celebrated Juneteenth. In fact, some landowners resisted the holiday by forbidding people from using their property for celebrations. As a result, Black Americans often held their celebrations at churches or in rural areas, where they could turn the celebration into a day-long affair with horseback riding, fishing and other outdoor activities.
On Jan. 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday in Texas. Over the next 30 years, other states followed by recognizing it as either a state holiday or a ceremonial observance. But there was still one important hurdle to cross — turning Juneteenth into a national holiday.
In 2016, 89-year-old former teacher and activist Opal Lee walked 1,400 miles from her home in Fort Worth, Texas, to Washington, D.C., to encourage legislators to turn Juneteenth into a national holiday. Two years later, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution recognizing the holiday, and in 2021, it became an official federal holiday.
How to celebrate Juneteenth
Now that Juneteenth is a national holiday, local organizations all over the United States have created annual events to celebrate. From festivals to movie nights to Black history exhibitions, there are plenty of ways to commemorate the ending of slavery in our country.
Black Caregiver Resource Group at Providence
Caregivers at Providence are deeply committed to improving access to care and overall health in Black communities. Specifically, the Black Caregiver Resource Group (BCRG) is a volunteer, employee-led group dedicated to highlighting the contributions and voices of Black caregivers in our community. Together with the Providence Southern California Diversity Equity and Inclusion Council, it’s deeply involved in spreading awareness of Juneteenth and its cultural impact.
A commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion
Providence SoCal Diversity Equity & Inclusion Council (SoCal DEI) is leading some of our efforts to raise cultural awareness and promote diversity to help build appreciation for cultural traditions. We are also starting conversations to help educate people about different cultures as a way to create a more welcoming, equitable, and inclusive environment. We support diversity education and awareness initiatives, thus deepening our ability to provide compassionate care and honor human dignity.
Find a doctor
If you are looking for a doctor, you can search for one that’s right for you in our provider directory.
Download the Providence App
We’re with you, wherever you are. Make Providence’s app your personalized connection to your health. Schedule appointments, conduct virtual visits, message your doctor, view your health records and more. Learn more and download the app.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions.
About the AuthorMore Content by Providence Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council