June 16 is today and 2022 is the second year that it is an official federal holiday. President Joe Biden last year signed into law National Independence Day on June 16, making it the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was instituted in 1983.
As a portmanteau of the date on which it is celebrated, Juneteenth commemorates the freedom of enslaved black people in the United States. It is also known as Freedom Day or Jubilee Day.
“The emancipation of enslaved black Americans was not the end of America’s work to deliver on the promise of equality, it only marked the beginning,” Biden said shortly before signing the June 16 holiday. “To honor the true meaning of June 16th, we must continue to work towards that promise because we are not there yet.”
Observance of June 16 dates back to 1865, but the holiday gained significant national attention in 2020, after the death ofBreonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and others radioed against police brutality and systematic violence against black Americans.
Here’s what you should know about June 16, including the history of the day, how and when it’s celebrated, how you can celebrate, and which states have declared it a public holiday.
What does it mean to make June 16 a public holiday?
Biden signed the June 16 National Independence Day into law in 2021, making it a federal holiday. This means that like public holidays, including Labor Day, Memorial Day, and New Year’s Day, it is statutorily defined. June 11th is the 11th federal holiday in the USA.
As with other federal holidays, banks, schools and state-owned businesses (like post offices) are expected to be closed. Because June 16 falls on a Sunday this year, many workers in states that recognize the holiday will have Monday, June 20 off, although some will observe it on Friday, June 17 instead.
How did June 16 become a symbol of the end of black slavery?
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas and read a federal ordinance abolishing slavery in the state:
“The people of Texas are informed that, pursuant to a proclamation of the United States Executive Branch, all slaves are free. This implies an absolute equality of personal rights and property rights between former masters and slaves, and the link between them hitherto becomes that between employer and wage-worker.
The moment was significant. Texas was the last of the Confederate states to continue enslavement, despite President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery in 1863 and despite the end of the Civil War on April 9, 1865. Texas was the furthest state from the Confederacy It was not until June that Union troops reached Texas in sufficient numbers to promulgate and enforce the federal order that ended slavery there. (The 13th Amendment, which added the abolition of slavery to the Constitution, was passed by Congress in January 1865 but was not ratified and adopted until December 1865.)
Since June 19, 1865, Americans have observed and celebrated June 16 as Emancipation Day, a day of freedom. In 1980, Texas became the first state to mark June 16 as an official holiday. Now almost all states commemorate or celebrate June 16th to some degree.
How is June 16th celebrated?
Some traditional ways of celebrating Juneteenth that you may still see today include rodeos, fishing, barbecues, and baseball, according to the Juneteenth website. Celebrations early on June 16 include a prayer service, rows of speakers, reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, and dances, according to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
How can I celebrate June 16, 2022?
Order food at a black-owned restaurant: Support Black restaurant owners in your community by ordering food on June 16 and beyond — here they are. Yelp and Uber Eats can help you find these restaurants on their apps. You can also visit Hungry for the Culture to find black-owned restaurants in most major US cities.
Black Lives Matter. Support the cause in these eight ways: From donations to getting more involved in your local community, here are real ideas you can get involved inand anti-racism, also from your living room.
Educate yourself and reflect: While slavery ended in 1865, racism persists in countless institutions. Use June 19 as a day to reflect on critical issues that perpetuate discrimination against black people in America and around the world. Spend the day reading about the history of Juneteenth, including how black families felt after their emancipation. Watch the 13th documentary on Netflix or connect with othersthis can help uncover real, current problems.
Check out the Juneteenth events online: Tune in to the Juneteenth Music Festival virtually or online celebrations and find a list of local events where you live.
Make a statement in your front yard: Raise awareness and show your support for Juneteenth by decorating a sign for your front yard or door. This is a great way to educate younger kids in your neighborhood who may not know about the holidays.
Celebrate with a BBQ or Family Dinner: Gather your family to celebrate freedom. With the pandemic still a serious concern, make sure you follow your state’s guidelines for indoor group gatherings (here are the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). If you’re partying indoors, we recommend opening the windows for ventilation.
June 16 only comes once a year, but there are more ways you can help your community throughout the year—for example,.
In which states is Juneteenth a paid holiday?
While many states celebrate June 16 as a public holiday, these are the states that observe it as a paid holiday. Note that many cities in the states not listed also recognize it as a paid holiday.
- New Jersey
- new York