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Juneteenth National Independence Day: Home

A collection of resources about the celebration of Juneteenth in the African American community.


Juneteenth National Independence Day

Image Credit: Education, National Museum of African American History and Culture. “Smithsonian Learning Lab Resource: Flags And Bunting Greet The Returned Soldier.” Smithsonian Learning Lab, Smithsonian Office of Educational Technology, 7 Jun. 2021,

"On the 19th of June, 1865, from the balcony of the Ashton Villa in Galveston, Texas, Union General Gordon Granger  read aloud “General Order #3″  that carried the message of the Emancipation Proclamation to Texas, and slaves in that state at last learned that they were free. Although  the Proclamation was formally issued on January 1, 1863, the news of it had not reached slaves in most of Texas. Union troops then needed to enforce this order throughout a large state, so that slaves were not all released on the same day in Texas — but the 19th is the day that is commemorated. Spontaneous celebrations broke out as the news spread, and these gave rise to an annual events to mark the day. As some of these freed slaves traveled to nearby states to find relatives, they carried the tradition of celebrating June 19th with them and over time it spread to all fifty states." From Folklife Today: American Folklife Center and Veterans History Project. Library of Congress Blog. 2016.

Public Law 117–17 117th Congress

Billy McCrea

An elderly African American man seated outside.
Billy McCrea, a former slave who remembered the Union troops coming into Texas in 1865 and being told that he was free. Photo by Ruby Terrill Lomax, September 30, 1940.

Juneteenth: Dishes to Taste and Savor

The Emancipation Proclamation

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war. The proclamation declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free."

Despite this expansive wording, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways. It applied only to states that had seceded from the United States, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy (the Southern secessionist states) that had already come under Northern control. Most important, the freedom it promised depended upon Union (United States) military victory.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the nation, it captured the hearts and imagination of millions of Americans and fundamentally transformed the character of the war. After January 1, 1863, every advance of federal troops expanded the domain of freedom. Moreover, the Proclamation announced the acceptance of black men into the Union Army and Navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators. By the end of the war, almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom.

From the first days of the Civil War, slaves had acted to secure their own liberty. The Emancipation Proclamation confirmed their insistence that the war for the Union must become a war for freedom. It added moral force to the Union cause and strengthened the Union both militarily and politically. As a milestone along the road to slavery's final destruction, the Emancipation Proclamation has assumed a place among the great documents of human freedom.

The original of the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, is in the National Archives in Washington, DC. With the text covering five pages the document was originally tied with narrow red and blue ribbons, which were attached to the signature page by a wafered impression of the seal of the United States. Most of the ribbon remains; parts of the seal are still decipherable, but other parts have worn off.

The document was bound with other proclamations in a large volume preserved for many years by the Department of State. When it was prepared for binding, it was reinforced with strips along the center folds and then mounted on a still larger sheet of heavy paper. Written in red ink on the upper right-hand corner of this large sheet is the number of the Proclamation, 95, given to it by the Department of State long after it was signed. With other records, the volume containing the Emancipation Proclamation was transferred in 1936 from the Department of State to the National Archives of the United States.

From The National Archives


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