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Monday marks 3rd year Juneteenth celebrated as national holiday

2021 marked the first time Juneteenth was declared a federal holiday, but it has been commemorated for over 150 years.
Monday marks 3rd year Juneteenth celebrated as national holiday
Posted at 11:29 AM, Jun 16, 2023

Although this year marks only the third Juneteenth considered a national holiday, it has been celebrated and commemorated for well over a century. 

Its origins date back to June 19, 1865, when slaves in Galveston, Texas, finally learned that President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation nearly 30 months earlier. 

According to the Smithsonian, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston that day to deliver the news to the last remaining slaves in the U.S. Once they were freed, slavery officially came to an end in the U.S. 

"A lot of slaveholders had taken their slaves to Texas to try and outrun the end of slavery or Union troops," said Brenna Greer, an associate professor of history at Wellesley College. "Juneteenth represents the celebration of that Emancipation. It's a much more complicated story than that."

Greer noted that there have been efforts to make Juneteenth a federal holiday for many years. It was not until 2021 that Congress officially made the day a holiday. That means federal offices, banks and other services will mostly be closed on Monday. 

SEE MORE: Why do we celebrate Black History Month in February?

A number of businesses and organizations previously made the day a holiday. 

According to Pew Research, 28 states recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday. In most of those states, state offices will close. Texas was the only state to permanently recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday prior to 2020. The state adopted it as a holiday starting in 1980.

"One of the things that people often ask me is how to celebrate Juneteenth, and I make a point of saying that some people look at it as a celebration, but some people look at it as a solemn day to consider freedom or the state of freedom of Black people throughout U.S. history," said Greer. "Use it as a day of reflection and or a day of service towards activities or initiatives that move or advance Black freedom."

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