The holiday celebrates the end of slavery in the United States.

By Kimberly Truong
Updated: Jun 18, 2019 @ 4:36 pm
Kathryn Scott Osler/Getty Images

This Wednesday, June 19 — Juneteenth — is the celebration of the ending of slavery in the United States. But even though it became an official state holiday in Texas in 1980, and has grown to be celebrated around the country, not everyone knows the historical significance behind the holiday. 

Here's what you need to know about Juneteenth.

The History

Also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, Juneteenth dates back to the American Civil War in 1865, when Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, arrived in Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended, and that enslaved people were now free. 

How It Became the Biggest Day for Celebration

While President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation declared the end of slavery two years before Major Granger arrived in Texas with the news, June 19, 1865 is the day chosen to celebrate the freedom of enslaved people because it's largely seen as the day that news of the end of slavery reached most of the (former) Confederacy. 

In fact, since the message that slaves would be freed didn't reach all Black Americans at the same time, people celebrated when freedom actually began to affect them: April 16 in Washington, D.C., and August 1 in New York, for starters. 

In Texas, slavery remained status quo until Major Granger's news arrived on June 19, 1865, and that date carried on its importance as other Emancipation Day celebrations dwindled. 

RELATED: The Fashion Significance of Juneteenth

How It's Celebrated

Juneteenth celebrations can take place for a whole week or month, and involves an emphasis on education about the importance of the holiday. This year, celebrations are happening all over the country with parties, parades, and feasts, as well as Miss Juneteenth pageants and community performances. 

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