Juneteenth: Fact Sheet

Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. It is also known as Emancipation Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, and Black Independence Day. On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX, and announced the end of the civil war and the end of slavery. Although the Emancipation Proclamation came 2½ years earlier on January 1, 1863, and many slave owners continued to hold their slaves captive after the announcement, Juneteenth became a symbolic date representing African American freedom.

Juneteenth is not a federal holiday. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia celebrate Juneteenth as a state holiday.

This fact sheet assists congressional offices with work related to Juneteenth. It contains sample speeches and remarks from the Congressional Record, presidential proclamations and remarks, and selected historical and cultural resources.

Juneteenth: Fact Sheet

June 9, 2017 (R44865)

Introduction

Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. It is also known as Emancipation Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, and Black Independence Day. On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX, and announced the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery. Although the Emancipation Proclamation came 2½ years earlier on January 1, 1863, and many slave owners continued to hold their slaves captive after the announcement, Juneteenth became a symbolic date representing African American freedom.

This fact sheet assists congressional offices with work related to Juneteenth. It contains sample speeches and remarks from the Congressional Record, presidential proclamations and remarks, and selected historical and cultural resources.

History

June 19, 1865, marks the date that Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX, and announced the end of both the Civil War and slavery. His announcement, General Order Number 3 reads

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 at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

The 1865 date is largely symbolic. The Emancipation Proclamation, issued by President Abraham Lincoln, had legally freed slaves in Texas on January 1, 1863, almost 2½ years earlier. Even after the general order, some slave masters withheld the information from their slaves, holding them as slaves through one more harvest season.

Texans celebrated Juneteenth beginning in 1866, with community-centric events, such as parades, cookouts, prayer gatherings, historical and cultural readings, and musical performances. Over time, communities have developed their own traditions. Some communities purchased land for Juneteenth celebrations, such as Emancipation Park in Houston, TX. As families emigrated from Texas to other parts of the United States, they carried the Juneteenth celebrations with them.

On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth officially became a Texas state holiday. Al Edwards, a freshman state representative, put forward the bill, H.B. 1016, making Texas the first state to grant this emancipation celebration. Since then, 44 other states and the District of Columbia have also declared it an official holiday.

Legislation

Although Juneteenth is not a federal holiday, most states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation recognizing it as a state holiday.

Table 1. States That Recognize Juneteenth as a State Holiday

State

Year of Recognition

Alabama

2011

Alaska

2001

Arizona

2016

Arkansas

2005

California

2002

Colorado

2004

Connecticut

2003

Delaware

2000

District of Columbia

2003

Florida

1991

Georgia

2011

Idaho

2001

Illinois

2003

Indiana

2010

Iowa

2002

Kansas

2009

Kentucky

2005

Louisiana

2003

Maine

2011

Maryland

2014

Massachusetts

2007

Michigan

2005

Minnesota

1996

Mississippi

2010

Missouri

2003

Nebraska

2009

Nevada

2011

New Jersey

2004

New Mexico

2006

New York

2004

North Carolina

2007

Ohio

2009

Oklahoma

1994

Oregon

2001

Pennsylvania

2011

Rhode Island

2013

South Carolina

2007

Tennessee

2007

Texas

1980

Utah

2016

Vermont

2008

Virginia

2007

Washington

2007

West Virginia

2008

Wisconsin

2009

Wyoming

2003

In recent years, the Senate has passed annual resolutions recognizing June 19 as Juneteenth Independence Day:

S.Res. 500, June 16, 2016,

S.Res. 201, June 15, 2015, and

S.Res. 474, June 12, 2014.

Similar resolutions have been introduced in the House of Representatives:

H.Res. 787, June 15, 2016,

H.Res. 316, June 15, 2015, and

H.Res. 309, June 19, 2014.

Sample Congressional Speeches and Recognitions

Members of Congress often make floor statements, issue press releases, or enter Extensions of Remarks into the Congressional Record to recognize federal holidays and observances. The following are some recent examples that may be of assistance in preparing such statements:

Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, "Commemorating Juneteenth 2016," Extension of Remarks, Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 162 (June 20, 2016), p. E955.

Senator Harry Reid, "Celebrating Juneteenth," remarks in the Senate, Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 162 (June 16, 2016), p. S4258.

Representative Jeb Hensarling, "Hensarling Commemorates Juneteenth," press release, June 19, 2015.

Representative Al Green, "In Recognition and Celebration of Juneteenth," Extension of Remarks, Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 160 (June 19, 2014), p. E1036.

Representative Julia Brownley, "Recognizing Ventura County's 24th Annual Juneteenth Celebration," Extension of Remarks, Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 160 (June 19, 2014), p. E1023.

Representative Tom Graves, "Statement on Juneteenth," press release, June 19, 2013.

Presidential Proclamations and Remarks

One of the many uses of a presidential proclamation is to ceremoniously honor a group or call attention to certain issues or events. Some proclamations and remarks commemorating Juneteenth from the Compilation of Presidential Documents include the following:

Statement on the Observance of Juneteenth—President Barack Obama, June 19, 2016

Message on the Observance of Juneteenth—President George W. Bush, June 18, 2008

Remarks at a Southwest Voter Registration Education Project Reception in Houston, Texas—President William J. Clinton, June 19, 2000

Other presidential proclamations are available through the Federal Digital System (FDsys) on the Government Publishing Office website.

Historical and Cultural Resources

Numerous resources provide information on the history and culture of the holiday. Some of these include the following:

Smithsonian, "Juneteenth: Our Other Independence Day." This blog post includes pictures of Major General George Granger and the house from which he read General Order Number 3.

Library of Congress, "Juneteenth." This blog post includes links to several interviews with former slaves about their memories of becoming free.

Texas State Historical Association, "Juneteenth." A longer narrative of the history of Juneteenth.

National Archives and Records Administration, "The Emancipation Proclamation." The original, handwritten document.

Galveston.com, "The Roots of Juneteenth." A video describing the history of Juneteenth in Galveston, Texas.

Author Contact Information

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