Tomorrow, Saturday, June 19th, marks our most recently enacted federal holiday, Juneteenth. After the bill swiftly made its way through Congress, President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act yesterday. The Act makes Juneteenth the 12th federal holiday and the first new federal holiday since 1983, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established. Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery, and much of the federal government was closed today to commemorate the new federal holiday. We wrote a blog post on Juneteenth a few years ago; for that post, see below.
This isn’t the only news regarding Juneteenth in recent years. More states adopted Juneteenth as a holiday, and last year the National Archives located the original written order. What a great update to our post and something to celebrate over the weekend!
On June 19, 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger stood on the balcony of a house in Galveston, Texas, and read out the text of General Order No. 3, informing the people of Texas of the effects of the Emancipation Proclamation. Annual celebration of Juneteenth (a portmanteau of “June” and “nineteenth”) began the next year; although celebration of the day declined in the early 20th century and was primarily centered in Texas, in more recent years recognition of the day has increased and spread. Juneteenth was officially recognized as a state holiday in Texas in 1980. Today, 46 states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth through legislation.
The reading of General Order No. 3 is not the only significant event in civil rights history to occur on this day. 98 years after Maj. Gen. Granger read out the order, President Kennedy called for the passage of comprehensive civil rights legislation, and legislation that would later become the Civil Rights Act was introduced in Congress. Exactly one year later, on June 19, 1964, the Senate passed the Civil Rights Act (H.R.7152).