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Juneteenth National Independence Day. By DeAnn Cox. MileStone Academy. June 14, 2023.

Juneteenth National Independence Day

Juneteenth is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans.

Early celebrations date to 1866, first involving church-centered community gatherings in Texas.

This is the longest-running African American holiday and America’s second Independence Day.

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Celebratory traditions often include public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Traditional songs include Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, and Lift Every Voice and Sing.

What is Juneteenth? Why is it a holiday?

On June 19, 1865, enslaved African Americans in Texas were told they were free.

African Americans have celebrated the annual commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States since the 1800s, and it became a federal holiday in 2021.

How Did Juneteenth Begin?

On June 19, 1865, about two months after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia.

A Union general, Gordon Granger, arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved African Americans of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended.

General Granger’s announcement put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation, issued three years earlier, on Jan. 1, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln.

Why is it called Juneteenth and not Emancipation Day?

On June 19, 1865, enslaved African Americans in Texas were told they were free.

A century and a half later, people across the U.S. continue celebrating the day, which is now a federal holiday.

When was Juneteenth established as a federal holiday?

Juneteenth National Independence Day is a US federal holiday in all 50 states.

President Joe Biden signed it on Thursday, June 17, 2021.

Juneteenth is a state holiday observed in 24 states and D.C. on June 19th each year.

Juneteenth local and state map

What does the Juneteenth flag look like and represent?

In 1997, the flag was created by Ben Haith, the founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation.

Each element is a facet of freedom for Black Americans:

The bursting outline around the star is inspired by a nova – a new star standing for a new beginning for the newly freed slaves. Haith said the white star in the flag’s center has a dual meaning.

It stands for Texas, the Lone Star State, and the freedom of all Black Americans in all 50 states. The curving arc across the flag’s width is a new horizon: the opportunities and promise for Black Americans. The red, white, and blue represent the American flag, a reminder that the enslaved people and their descendants were and are Americans.

Is it OK to say Happy Juneteenth?

Yes, it is ok to say Happy Juneteenth, and you can celebrate the holiday in many ways. Here are four easy ways you can celebrate and learn how to celebrate this holiday:

  • Just Say It! – The easiest way to wish someone a Happy Juneteenth is by messaging them and wishing them a fulfilled day. Like Black History Month and other vital anniversaries to Black Americans, it is essential to acknowledge it as an American holiday, even if you do not celebrate it.

  • Donate to Mutual Aid Funds and Black Organizations – Donating is a timeless way to support individual Black people and support communities tackling modern-day racism. If you want to donate, check out mutual aid funds— these are community-created funds that crowdsource recourses to help support members.

  • Support Black Businesses – Like donating to mutual aid funds, buying from small Black-owned businesses can help keep economic sustainability. Although buying Black can be a timeless way of supporting Black people, it should be noted that you should buy Black throughout the year, not specifically on Black historical holidays, and advocate for the redistribution of wealth in historically oppressed Black areas. Here are 30 Black-owned clothing businesses and Black-owned bookstores to shop at all June and all year long!

  • Learn the True History. Education and researching its significance to the African American and Black community will show your dedication to being an ally.


Juneteenth celebrations across the United States have seen a noticeable increase over the past few years.

Today, celebrations occur among families in backyards where food is integral. Cities like Atlanta and Washington hold more significant events, including parades and festivals with residents, local businesses, and more.