On June 19 America celebrates Juneteenth, or Freedom Day, on the birthday of the Emancipation Proclamation that abolished slavery in Texas and other former Confederate states in 1865.
Juneteenth is a public holiday in most U.S states, where schools and businesses close down.
President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, effectively freeing all enslaved people in the Confederate States that were fighting against the Union. This excluded five border states that were not rebelling against the Union - Missouri, Maryland, Delaware, and Kentucky. At the time, Texas was an isolated state and not a battleground for the Civil War, so there was no presence of Union soldiers. This meant that the Emancipation Proclamation didn't affect the slaves in the state. As a result, many slave owners from other confederate states moved to Texas with their slaves, increasing the enslaved population in the state by thousands.
After the surrender of General Robert E. Lee on April 9, 1865, the Civil War was officially over, and on June 19 General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston with 1800 Union soldiers and proceeded to take control of the state and put the Emancipation Proclamation in effect, freeing the 250,000 slaves that existed in the state of Texas. The recently freed slaves took to the streets to celebrate, thus originating the holiday that would become known as Juneteenth, which literally means "June Nineteenth".
In December of 1865, the 13th Amendment was adopted and slavery was abolished in all of the United States.
How Juneteenth is Celebrated
The spirit of joy during Juneteenth is still commemorated every year across America. People tend to organize community events and celebrations such as barbecues or potlucks, block parties, baseball games, and picnics. City halls, schools and libraries display exhibitions about the history of Juneteenth, and schools often host art and writing competitions for their students.
Many people display the Juneteenth flag, which consists of a rectangle that is half red, half blue, with a five-pointed white star in the center, surrounded by a 12-pointed star.