UPDATE: Juneteenth has become the newest United States federal holiday. It is now one of twelve federal holidays, which include Christmas Day, Memorial Day, and Independence Day. It is the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King, Jr., Day became a federal holiday in 1983.
On Tuesday, June 15th, the United States Senate voted unanimously establish June 19th as a federal holiday. The next day, the bill passed in the House of Representatives. Two days later, on Thursday, June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.
Because June 19th falls on a Saturday this year, many federal workers, such as the post office workers, will have the day off on Friday, June 18th. Many states and private companies are also giving their employees time off to celebrate Juneteenth.
Read below to learn more about Juneteenth!
In 1860 and 1861, several states in the South separated from the United States. They wanted to maintain the practice of enslaving others. The Northern states wanted to abolish the practice. This was one of the reasons the American Civil War started.
On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Emancipation means “freedom.” By signing this document, Abraham Lincoln was setting the enslaved people free.
In April, 1865, the Civil War ended with the Northern states’ victory. But many of the enslaved people in the South did not know about the Emancipation Proclamation. On June 19, 1865, Northern soldiers gathered crowds in Galveston, Texas. They told them that the enslaved people in Texas were free. The people in Texas were among the last in the country to find out about their new freedom.
People combined June 19th to create the name of the day—Juneteenth. It’s also known as Freedom Day. In 1980, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth a state holiday. People celebrate with community gatherings, cookouts, parades, and festivals.
What Do You Think? Why is Juneteenth an important holiday?
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