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, many slave owners continued to hold their slaves captive after the announcement, so Juneteenth became a symbolic date representing African American freedom.

Juneteenth is not a federal holiday. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth as a holiday or observance.

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

Updated June 18, 2019 (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, many slave owners continued to hold their slaves captive after the announcement, so 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, 45 other states and the District of Columbia have also commemorated or recognized the day.

Legislation

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

Table 1. States That Commemorate or Observe Juneteenth

State

Year of Recognition

State Legislation

Alabama

2011

Act No. 2011-398

Alaska

2001

Alaska Stat. § 44.12.090

Arizona

2016

Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 1-315

Arkansas

2005

Ark. Code § 1-5-114

California

2003

Cal. Gov't Code § 6719

Colorado

2004

HJR 04-1027

Connecticut

2003

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-29a(48)

Delaware

2000

Del. Code tit. 1, § 604

District of Columbia

2003

PR 15-109

Florida

1991

Fla. Stat. § 683.21

Georgia

2011

SR 164

Idaho

2001

SCR 101

Illinois

2003

5 Ill. Comp. Stat. 490/63

Indiana

2010

HCR 0038

Iowa

2002

Iowa Code § 1C.14

Kansas

2007

SR 1860

Kentucky

2005

Ky. Rev. Stat. § 2.147

Louisiana

2003

La. Rev. Stat. § 1:58:2

Maine

2011

Me. Stat. tit. 1, § 150-H

Maryland

2014

Md. Code Ann., Gen. Prov. § 7-411

Massachusetts

2007

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 6, § 15BBBBB

Michigan

2005

Mich. Comp. Laws § 435.361

Minnesota

1996

Minn. Stat. § 10.55

Mississippi

2010

SCR 605

Missouri

2003

Mo. Rev. Stat. § 9.161

Montana

2017

Mont. Code § 1-1-231

Nebraska

2009

LR 75

Nevada

2011

Nev. Rev. Stat. § 236.033

New Jersey

2004

N.J. Rev. Stat. § 36:2-80

New Mexico

2006

N.M. Stat. Ann. § 12-5-14

New York

2004

N.Y. Exec. § 168-a

North Carolina

2007

HB 1607

Ohio

2009

Ohio Rev. Code § 5.2247

Oklahoma

1994

Okla. Stat. tit. 25, § 82.4

Oregon

2001

SJR 31

Pennsylvania

2001

HR 236

Rhode Island

2013

S 169

South Carolina

2008

S.C. Code § 53-3-85

Tennessee

2007

HJR 170

Texas

1980

Tex. Gov't Code § 662.003

Utah

2016

Utah Code § 63G-1-401(1)(e)

Vermont

2007

Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 1, § 375

Virginia

2007

HR 56

Washington

2007

Wash. Rev. Code § 1.16.050

West Virginia

2008

HR 19

Wisconsin

2009

Wis. Stat. § 995.20

Wyoming

2003

Wyo. Stat. § 8-4-107

Source: Table compiled by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

Note: States without links do not have publicly available versions of the bill or resolution online. Copies can be found on Lexis Advanced or requested from CRS.

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

S.Res. 547 (115th Cong.)

S.Res. 214 (115th Cong.)

S.Res. 500 (114th Cong.)

S.Res. 201 (114th Cong.)

Similar resolutions have been introduced in the House of Representatives

H.Res. 948 (115th Cong.)

H.Res. 386 (115th Cong.)

H.Res. 787 (114th Cong.)

H.Res. 316 (114th Cong.)

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:

Senators Bill Nelson and Cory Booker, "Juneteenth Independence Day," remarks in the Senate, Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 164 (June 19, 2018), pS4032-S4033.

Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, "Commemorating Juneteenth," remarks in the House of Representatives, Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 162 (June 19, 2018), pp. H5274-H5275.

Representative Adriano Espaillat, "Remembering Juneteenth," Extensions of Remarks, Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 163 (June 21, 2017), p. E863.

Representative Brian Babin, "Celebrating Juneteenth 2017," Extensions of Remarks, Congressional Record, daily edition vol. 163 (June 15, 2017), p. E828.

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

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 of the Observance of Juneteenth—President Donald Trump, June 19, 2018

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

Message on the Observance of Juneteenth—President George W. Bush, June 19, 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 govinfo, a portal for free public access to official publications from all three branches of the government, maintained by the Government Publishing Office (GPO).

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 gaining their freedom.

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.

Author Contact Information

Molly Higgins, Reference and Digital Services Librarian ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])