Juneteenth, also known as June Nineteenth, marks the day when federal troops first arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and free all enslaved people. Today, Juneteenth is celebrated as an annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States and has been celebrated by African-Americans since the late 1800s.
After the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Va., Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved African-Americans of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended. General Granger’s announcement put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued more than two and a half years earlier on Jan. 1, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln. The holiday received its name by combining June and 19. The day is also sometimes called “Juneteenth Independence Day,” “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day.”
The Emancipation Proclamation
The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. This had established that all enslaved people in Confederate states in rebellion against the Union “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” In reality, the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t instantly free any enslaved people. The proclamation only applied to places under Confederate control and not to slave-holding border states or rebel areas already under Union control.
In 1865, when the state’s residents finally learned that slavery had been abolished, the former slaves immediately began to celebrate with prayer, feasting, song, and dance. The following year, on June 19, the first official Juneteenth celebrations took place in Texas. The original observances included prayer meetings and the singing of spirituals, and celebrants wore new clothes as a way of representing their newfound freedom. Within a few years, African Americans in other states were celebrating the day as well, making it an annual tradition.
Juneteenth became a state holiday in Texas in 1980, and a number of other states followed suit. The day is also celebrated outside the United States, with organizations in a number of countries using the day to recognize the end of slavery and to celebrate the culture and achievements of African Americans.
Today, celebrations range from families celebrating in backyards with a cookout, to cities like Atlanta and Washington, holding larger events like parades and festivals. Galveston has remained the epicenter for Juneteenth events over the years. The city usually has about 15 events, including parades, barbecues, musical performances and a beauty contest, beginning in the first week of June. Combined, the events draw about 10,000 people in total.
How To Celebrate in D.C.
Below you can find events commemorating the holiday here in Washington D.C.
Ankarafest DC “A Juneteenth Brunch Celebration”
Sun, Jun 13, 1 – 5 PM
Mary & Main – Food, Black Farmers w/ Fresh Produce, Fitness & Dance Classes, and More
Sat, June 19, 12:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Juneteenth Regional Event
Sat, Jun 19, 6 AM – 5 PM
Sat, Jun 19, 6 – 10 PM
Juneteenth is a time to celebrate, to gather as a family, to reflect on the past and look to the future. Mary and Main invites you to engage in history, learn where you came from, and discover new ways to celebrate this holiday.