History of Juneteenth

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the emancipation of slavery in Texas and the United States. Juneteenth, an amalgamation of June and nineteenth, originated in Galveston, Texas as a response to General Gordon Granger's pronouncement on June 19, 1865 that "...all slaves are free."


This announcement was necessary because African Americans in the state did not know that slavery had ended two years earlier. On June 7, 1979, more than a century after the abolition of slavery in Texas, Juneteenth became an official state holiday by legislative mandate.
A woman wearing a pink dress and hat looking at an exhibit.


While the term Juneteenth, specifically refers to the emancipation of African American slaves in Texas, 'Emancipation Days' or 'Freedom Days,' are celebrated in multiple states throughout the country. Maryland Emancipation Day traces back to November 1, 1864, when the state adopted a new constitution, which abolished slavery.


Juneteenth can be celebrated in a variety of ways, however, celebrations generally focus on family and community. Traditionally, African Americans celebrate Juneteenth by having parades, cookouts, fish-frys, church services, and family reunions. Juneteenth is recognized as a state holiday or special day of remembrance in 42 states and the District of Columbia. Although Maryland is not one of the 42 states, since 2008, the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) has held an annual Juneteenth celebration in Prince George's County, which showcases African-American history, genealogy, music, dance and activities for adults and children.