On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law establishing Juneteenth as a national holiday. But what exactly are we celebrating on this day?
The Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, as the nation entered its third year of the civil war. The Proclamation established that all enslaved people in states in rebellion against the Union would be free forever. However, the Proclamation did not instantly free the country’s estimated four million slaves, and it continued to exist in the south until June of 1865, when Union General Granger arrived in Texas and freed approximately 250,000 enslaved people. Hence, Juneteenth, which is short for June Nineteenth, was born. A few months later, in December 1865, slavery in America was abolished formally through the adoption of the 13th Amendment. We celebrate Juneteenth as a milestone along the path toward equal rights, equal opportunity, and the celebration of diversity.