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Juneteenth Is a Federal Holiday: Here’s What You Need to Know

Juneteenth is a federal holiday celebrating the freedom of African Americans who were still enslaved after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863.

Below we take a brief look at the history of Juneteenth and share a new documentary that explores the spiritual aspects of the nation’s newest federal holiday.

A Public Holiday

Juneteenth was signed into law as a federal holiday by President Joe Biden on June 17, 2021. The official name of the bill he signed is the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act.”

However, Juneteenth was observed in Galveston, Texas, and other parts of the U.S. long before Biden made it a legal public holiday.

This year, Juneteenth happens to fall on the same day as Father’s Day, which is on Sunday. However, Emancipation Day — another name for Juneteenth — will be observed on the federal level on Monday.

Its History

Although Lincoln freed the enslaved on January 1, 1863, the law wasn’t enforced in every part of the confederacy.

It wasn’t until June 19, 1865, when Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger publicly announced in Texas that its African American residents were freed from slavery. It was the end of the Civil War and Granger began announcing the news upon arriving in Galveston, Texas.

The people of Galveston are credited with inaugurating the very first Juneteenth celebration that same year.

Juneteenth celebrations on June 19, 1900
Juneteenth celebrations on June 19, 1900. (Photo: Public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

But Granger’s announcement was still met with resistance in other parts of the state.

As history professor Karl Jacoby explains:

“Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation two and a half years before Granger’s landing, but Texas’s remoteness from the main theaters of the Civil War left the enslavement of African Americans all but untouched in the Lone Star State. Indeed, if anything, slavery had grown more entrenched in Texas during the conflict. Slave owners from other parts of the Confederacy brought their enslaved African Americans to the state to prevent them from escaping to Union lines, causing the number of slaves in Texas to surge to a quarter of a million.”

Slavery was so entrenched in Texas that the Union had to follow Granger’s announcement of the Emancipation news with physical enforcement.

Jacoby tells us:

“Four months after Granger issued his order at Galveston, his successor, Brigadier General Edgar M. Gregory, found it necessary to restate that African Americans were no longer to be kept in bondage. Even so, actual emancipation did not occur until U.S. military forces fanned out across Texas and enforced the policy on a plantation-by-plantation basis.”

Legacy of Juneteenth

A new documentary, “Juneteenth: Faith & Freedom,” explores the spiritual significance of the nation’s newest federal holiday.

“Juneteenth: Faith and Freedom” is hosted by pastor Rasool Berry, who interviews various guests in the program. The documentary reveals how “Scripture inspired the faith of enslaved people,” according to its YouTube description. It also explains why the formerly enslaved credited God for their liberation from bondage.

Viewers are also taken to the church that was the site of the very first Juneteenth celebration.

The documentary is presented by Our Daily Bread Voices Collection and Our Daily Bread Media.

Watch it on YouTube, or below.

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FM Editors
Faithfully Magazine is a fresh, bold and exciting news and culture publication that covers issues, conversations and events impacting Christian communities of color.


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