Celebrated annually on June 19, the day is now recognized as a federal holiday. Juneteenth’s commemoration is on the anniversary date of the June 19, 1865, announcement by Union Army general Gordon Granger, proclaiming and enforcing freedom of enslaved people in Texas, which was the last state of the Confederacy with institutional slavery.
Celebrations date to 1866, at first involving church-centered community gatherings in Texas. It spread across the South and became more commercialized in the 1920s and 1930s, often centering on a food festival. 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. Celebratory traditions often include public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, singing traditional songs such as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, and the reading of works by noted African-American writers, such as Ralph Ellison and Maya Angelou.
On June 15, 2021 Juneteenth became a federal holiday with the passage of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act. This the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King.