Juneeteenth, a combination of the day and month of the holiday commemorating the end of slavery, is the newest federal holiday designed by the U.S government.
The holiday became officially recognized on June 17, 2021, by President Joe Biden.
Though often confused with Emancipation Day, which is observed two months earlier by Washington D.C.’s local government and celebrates the signing of the President Abraham Lincoln’s historic proclamation outlawing slavery, Juneteenth celebrates the day that news finally made it to more than 250,000 enslaved Black people living in Texas in 1865.
The Emancipation Proclamation declared enslaved African American people to be freed in Southern states, though because Texas was still under Confederate control, it would take almost two years from the date of Lincoln’s signage for those inhabitants to hear the news and be free themselves.
The union army arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19 1865 and brought word that slavery had been abolished. The formerly enslaved people began celebrating on that very day with shared meals, song, dance and prayers, according to Britannica.
Some scholars and Americans of African heritage consider Juneteenth to be the country’s second independence day, the first of which comes not even a month later on July 4.
Texas was the first state to codify the date into law in 1980 and was the only state to have the day as a paid holiday for state employees in 2020. Since then, at least eight states — New York, Maine, Louisiana, Virginia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Washington and Illinois — have followed, according to AP.
In 2021, President Biden signed a bill into law to establish the holiday federally after an overwhelming 415-to-14 House vote and unanimous passage through the Senate, The Washington Post reported at the time.
“By making Juneteenth a federal holiday, all Americans can feel the power of this day, and learn from our history, and celebrate progress, and grapple with the distance we’ve come but the distance we have to travel,” Biden said in remarks.
Federal employees will have Monday, June 19, 2023, off from work, creating a three-day weekend.
There are 11 federal holidays recognized by the Office of Personnel Management. On these days, all non-essential government employees are off work, and most government offices are closed.
The next federal holiday is Independence Day on Tuesday, July 4th. The holiday commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence on the same day in 1776 marking the colonies unified intention to secede from the British Empire.
With reporting by Ryan White.
Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.