Celebrates the liberation of black American slaves in Texas on June 19, 1865
On June 19, 1865, the Union General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Tex., to inform inhabitants of the Civil War's end two months earlier. Two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. It is said that Granger read the contents of the General Order Number 3 stating: 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.
June 19th—which was quickly shortened to "Juneteenth" among celebrants—has become the African-American addendum to our national Independence Day, for, as Juneteenth jubilees remind us, the Emancipation Proclamation did not bring about emancipation, and the prevailing portrayal of Independence Day ignores the ignominious incidence of slavery entirely.
The state of Texas is widely considered the first U.S. state to begin Juneteenth celebrations with informal observances taking place for over a century; it has been an official state holiday since 1980. It is considered a "partial staffing holiday", meaning that state offices do not close, but some employees will be using a floating holiday to take the day off. Schools are not closed, but most public schools in Texas are already into summer vacation by June 19th. Its observance has spread to many other states, with a few celebrations even taking place in other countries.
As of June 2011, 39 states and the District of Columbia have recognized Juneteenth as either a state holiday or state holiday observance; these are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.