June 19, 2021 marks the 156th anniversary of the last African American slaves being freed in Texas. This year, President Biden signed into law Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, S. 475, creating a federal holiday to commemorate Juneteenth. This is the first federal holiday approved since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.
On June 19, 1865, federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed. This, however was two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect January, 1863. This day, the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, has become a day for African Americans to celebrate not only their freedom, but their history, culture and achievements.
"On Juneteenth, we recommit ourselves to the work of equity, equality, and justice. And, we celebrate the centuries of struggle, courage, and hope that have brought us to this time of progress and possibility. That work has been led throughout our history by abolitionists and educators, civil rights advocates and lawyers, courageous activists and trade unionists, public officials, and everyday Americans who have helped make real the ideals of our founding documents for all."
Watch the signing ceremony with remarks from President Biden and Vice President Harris.
- Juneteenth: A Celebration of Freedom, National Park Service
- The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth, Smithsonian
- View the official handwritten record of General Order No. 3, which informed the people of Texas that all enslaved people were now free. It is now preserved at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.
- Check out the Smithsonian’s Juneteenth website to learn more about the history of Juneteenth, share your Juneteenth story, and find activities for children and youth.