Skip to main content

Enroll for Summer and Fall 2024! View the schedule of classes

Learn More


"A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of." ~Nelson Mandela
fist with rope


Juneteenth (short for "June Nineteenth") marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be free. President Abraham Lincoln actually issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, during the American Civil War, which declared more than three million slaves living in the Confederate states to be free. Even after the Confederate surrender and Juneteenth, slavery still existed in parts of the country until Congress passed the 13th Amendment, which was ratified in December 1865, formally abolishing slavery in the United States.

The Juneteenth holiday is also known as:

  • Juneteenth National Independence Day
  • Emancipation Day
  • Freedom Day
  • Jubilee Day
  • Black Independence Day
  • Juneteenth Independence Day

Juneteenth was originally celebrated in Texas on June 19, 1866. It marked the first anniversary of the day that African Americans there first learned of the Emancipation Proclamation, more than two years after it was initially issued. The holiday was originally celebrated with prayer meetings and by singing spirituals and wearing new clothes to represent newfound freedom. Within a few years, African Americans were celebrating in other states, making it an annual tradition.

Juneteenth became a state holiday in Texas in 1980, and by 2002, eight states officially recognized Juneteenth. By 2008, just over half the states recognized Juneteenth in some way and it wasn't until 2019 that 47 states, as well as the District of Columbia, recognized Juneteenth. As of 2020, only Texas has adopted the holiday as a paid holiday for state employees. 

The Juneteenth holiday is considered the "longest-running African American holiday" and has been called "America's second Independence Day." In 2021 Juneteenth was made a federal holiday. The day is also celebrated outside the United States, being used by organizations in a number of countries to recognize the end of slavery and to honor the culture and achievements of African Americans. 

A Juneteenth celebration might include eating barbeque, shooting fireworks, gathering at a cookout, and sipping on red drinks, a tradition that symbolizes perseverance and honors the blood that was shed of African Americans. For others, it's shopping only at black-owned businesses, sharing history, or resting at home.