North Central News

Juneteenth: A brief history

A band performs in Texas for Emancipation Day, ca. 1900 (photo by Mrs. Charles Stephenson [Grace Murray] courtesy of University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas HistoryAustin History Center, Austin Public Library).

Juneteenth is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. Juneteenth marks the anniversary of the announcement of General Order No. 3 by Union Army general Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865, proclaiming freedom for enslaved people in Texas. The announcement came two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln.

Originating in Galveston, the holiday has been celebrated annually on June 19 in various parts of the United States since the 1860s, often broadly celebrating African-American culture. Early celebrations date to 1866, at first involving church-centered community gatherings in Texas. They then spread across the South. Participants in the Great Migration out of the South carried their celebrations to other parts of the country. During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, these celebrations were eclipsed by the nonviolent determination to achieve civil rights but grew in popularity again in the 1970s with a focus on African American freedom and African-American arts.

The day was first recognized as a federal holiday in June 2021, when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law. Juneteenth became the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was adopted in 1983.

Closer to home, in February 2022, Mayor Kate Gallego and the Phoenix City Council voted to designate June 19 of each year as a city holiday in observation of Juneteenth.

As part of the resolution approved by the Mayor and Council, Juneteenth will become a paid city holiday beginning this year. As with other holidays, when June 19 falls on a weekend, as it does this year, the holiday will be celebrated on the Friday before in cases where it falls on a Saturday or on Monday when the holiday falls on Sunday. ​

City offices will be closed for Juneteenth on Monday, June 20. City services available that day will follow a similar pattern to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President’s Day or Cesar Chavez Day.

At the state level, due to the federal holiday, the U.S. Federal Reserve, commercial banks, financial institutions, and the Equity and U.S. Bond Markets will be closed on Monday, June 20, which will impact some financial transactions.  However, State of Arizona agencies, boards and commissions will be open as June 20 is not a holiday recognized by the State of Arizona.

LEARN MORE:

The Library of Congress suggests these resources for those who would like to learn more about the history of Juneteenth:

Legislative History of Juneteenth
“Juneteenth” by Stephanie Hall
Ralph Ellison’s “Juneteenth”
A Long Day Coming: Happy Juneteenth

SOURCES:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juneteenth
https://www.phoenix.gov/newsroom/city-manager/2228
https://gao.az.gov/juneteenth-%E2%80%93-june-20-2022-federal-holiday

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