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Juneteenth in the United States

Juneteenth is an annual observance on June 19 to remember when Union soldiers enforced the Emancipation Proclamation and freed all remaining slaves in Texas on June 19, 1865. This day is an opportunity for people to celebrate freedom and equal rights in the United States.

Is Juneteenth a Public Holiday?

Juneteenth is a public holiday in some areas (see list below), where it is a day off and schools and most businesses are closed. In other areas, Juneteenth is a normal working day.

Juneteenth celebrates equal rights and unity in the USA.

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What Do People Do?

A range of public, community and private events are held to celebrate Juneteenth, often on a weekend close to June 19. These include:

  • Baseball games.
  • Pot luck outdoor cookouts, barbecues or picnics.
  • Workplace lunches.
  • Rodeos.
  • Neighborhood or block parties.
  • Community flag raising ceremonies.
  • Juneteenth displays in city halls, libraries, schools and post offices.
  • Essay or artwork competitions for young people.
  • Presentations of community service awards.
  • The distribution of Juneteenth buttons, t-shirts, mugs and bags.

Some people also decorate conference rooms or corridors at their workplace, their neighborhood and yards with Juneteenth banners, yard signs and flags to raise awareness of the event.

Public Life

Juneteenth is a partial or full state holiday, or an official observance in at least 42 US states and the District of Columbia.

In some states, people employed by the state have a day off work. Stores, post offices and other organizations and businesses are likely to be open as usual, but some may be closed or have restricted opening hours in some areas. Many public transit services operate to their usual schedule, but there may be some changes. There may be some local disruption to traffic around large scale public events.

Background

Slavery in the United States can be traced back to the 16th century when Spanish explorers brought African slaves with them to the New World. It lasted until the Emancipation Proclamation came into effect on January 1, 1863. On that date Texas was largely controlled by forces fighting for the Confederate States, which opposed the abolition of slavery. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers arrived to take control of Texas and enforce the emancipation of slaves in the state. In Galveston, Texas, the newly freed slaves held large public celebrations and so laid the base for future Juneteenth activities. The word 'Juneteenth' resulted from the words 'June Nineteenth' being slurred together in speech.

After 1865, Juneteenth was mainly celebrated in Texas. Parks have been established on land bought by former slaves to hold Juneteenth celebrations in the Texan cities of Austin, Houston and Mexia. However, it is now a state holiday or observance in more than half of the US states and there is a campaign for Juneteenth to become a national holiday or observance throughout the nation.  Juneteenth celebrations are also held in other countries around the world, including Ghana, Honduras, Japan, Taiwan and Trinidad and Tobago.

Symbols

The Juneteenth flag consists of a rectangle. The lower part of the rectangle is red and the upper part is blue and it has a solid white, five-pointed star at its center. The star is surrounded by a white outline of a 12-pointed star. The Juneteenth flag is often displayed with the United States flag to symbolize that slavery is illegal.

In Texas and some other southern states, the traditional drink on Juneteenth is Big Red soda. This variety of cream soda is a sweet, soft drink flavored with orange and lemon oils and vanilla. It is available in different flavors and with or without caffeine and sugar.

Juneteenth Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2010SatJun 19JuneteenthLocal observanceAll except AZ, HI, MD, MP, MT, ND, NH, SD, TX, UT
2010SatJun 19Emancipation DayState holidayTexas
2011SunJun 19JuneteenthLocal observanceAll except AZ, HI, MD, MP, MT, ND, NH, SD, TX, UT
2011SunJun 19Emancipation DayState holidayTexas
2012TueJun 19JuneteenthLocal observanceAll except AZ, HI, MD, MP, MT, ND, NH, SD, TX, UT
2012TueJun 19Emancipation DayState holidayTexas
2013WedJun 19JuneteenthLocal observanceAll except AZ, HI, MD, MP, MT, ND, NH, SD, TX, UT
2013WedJun 19Emancipation DayState holidayTexas
2014ThuJun 19JuneteenthLocal observanceAll except AZ, HI, MD, MP, MT, ND, NH, SD, TX, UT
2014ThuJun 19Emancipation DayState holidayTexas
2015FriJun 19JuneteenthLocal observanceAll except AZ, HI, MD, MP, MT, ND, NH, SD, TX, UT
2015FriJun 19Emancipation DayState holidayTexas
2016SunJun 19JuneteenthLocal observanceAll except HI, MD, MP, MT, ND, NH, SD, TX, UT
2016SunJun 19Emancipation DayState holidayTexas
2017MonJun 19JuneteenthLocal observanceAll except HI, MD, MP, MT, ND, NH, SD, TX, UT
2017MonJun 19Emancipation DayState holidayTexas
2018TueJun 19JuneteenthLocal observanceAll except HI, MD, MP, MT, ND, NH, SD, TX, UT
2018TueJun 19Emancipation DayState holidayTexas
2019WedJun 19JuneteenthLocal observanceAll except HI, MD, MP, MT, ND, NH, SD, TX, UT
2019WedJun 19Emancipation DayState holidayTexas
2020FriJun 19JuneteenthLocal observanceAll except HI, MD, MP, MT, ND, NH, SD, TX, UT
2020FriJun 19Emancipation DayState holidayTexas

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