Juneteenth – A New Federal Holiday
For the first time since 1983 (when Martin Luther King Jr. Day was adopted) the United States has a new federal holiday. On June 17th, 2021 President Biden signed into law the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act making Juneteenth the 11th federal holiday. This law went into immediate effect. Federal employees observed Juneteenth on Friday, July 18th this year since the 19th fell on a Saturday.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865 when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to inform enslaved African-Americans of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended. While not formally a federal holiday until this year, several states have recognized the importance of this day. Many people in cities and towns across the US have celebrated Juneteenth for the last 156 years.
The holiday received its name by combining June and 19. It is also sometimes called “Juneteenth Independence Day,” “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day.”
Originally, the day was celebrated by bringing families together for prayer. Some formally enslaved men and women along with their descendants even made the pilgrimage back to Galveston. Today, families still gather for food and fellowship in remembrance, while some cities hold larger gatherings with parades and festivals.