Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is an annual holiday in the United States. Celebrated on June 19, it commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas. The holiday originated in Galveston, Texas; for more than a century, the state of Texas was the primary home of Juneteenth celebrations. Since 1980, Juneteenth has been an official state holiday in Texas. More recently, however, its observance has spread across the nation....
Though the Emancipation Proclamation had taken effect on January 1, 1863, it had little immediate effect on most slaves' day-to-day lives, particularly in Texas, which was almost entirely under Confederate control. Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day Union General Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops arrived on Galveston Island to take possession of the state and enforce slaves' new freedoms. Standing on the balcony of Galveston's Ashton Villa, Granger read the contents of "General Order No. 3":
The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
That day has since become known as Juneteenth, a name derived from a portmanteau of the words June and nineteenth.
Slaves in Galveston rejoiced in the streets with jubilant celebrations. Juneteenth celebrations began in Texas the following year. Across many parts of Texas, freed slaves pooled their funds to purchase land specifically for their communities' increasingly large Juneteenth gatherings — including Houston's Emancipation Park, Mexia's Booker T. Washington Park, and Emancipation Park in Austin. Within a few years, these celebrations spread to other states and have become an annual tradition. Celebrations often open with praying and religious ceremonies, and include a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. A wide range of festivities entertain participants, from music and dancing to contests of physical strength and intellect. Baseball and other popular American games are played. Food is central to the celebrations, with barbecued meats being especially popular.