The History Behind America's Other Independence Day: Juneteenth

What Is Juneteenth?

President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, announcing that enslaved people "shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free," but the proclamation didn’t immediately apply in certain areas, including secessionist states like Texas, which had left the Union and joined the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Slavery was formally abolished after Congress ratified the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution nearly six months later, on Dec. 6, 1865. Freed enslaved people marked June 19 the following year, kicking off the first celebration of Juneteenth.

Texas was the first state to establish Juneteenth as a state holiday. The late Rep. Al Edwards of Houston, a Democratic congressman, wrote and sponsored a bill calling for "Emancipation Day in Texas" to be recognized as a "legal holiday." As of now, 47 states along with the District of Columbia that recognizes Juneteenth as "a holiday or observance."

Juneteenth is also known as Black Independence Day, Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, Juneteenth Independence Day or Juneteenth National Freedom Day

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