Two years ago, Juneteenth became a federal holiday after President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law. Despite this, Texas was the first state to celebrate the holiday.
Juneteenth began as a celebration of the order by Major General Gordon Granger proclaiming freedom of the enslaved people in Texas on June 19, 1865, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.
The announcement became an annual holiday among freed slaves, when church-centered communities gathered for prayer, barbecue, parades, fishing, and rodeos.
Some communities of freed slaves pooled their funds to purchase land for celebrations, because black people were barred from using public parks. In 1872, black leaders in Texas raised $1,000 for the purchase of 10 acres of land that would become the Emancipation Park in Houston. After this, Austin’s Juneteenth committee purchased its own Emancipation Park in the early 1900s.
Although the celebration began in 1866, Texas first recognized the holiday, enacting a law in 1980. By 2006, 15 states recognized the holiday. By 2019, 47 states recognized Juneteenth, but in 2021 it officially became a federal holiday, and one of the five date-specific national holidays.
Juneteenth is the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day, declared in 1986.
Juneteenth National Independence day is now a national holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, and it all began a century and a half ago in Galveston, Texas.