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Juneteenth is a portmanteau of words “June” and “nineteenth” as it was on June 19th, 1865, when the final enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas at the end of the American Civil War. 

On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln announced that the Emancipation Proclamation would go into effect on January 1, 1863, promising freedom to enslaved people in all the rebellious parts of Southern states of the Confederacy.  Enforcement of the Proclamation generally relied upon the advance of Union troops.  Texas, as the most remote state of the former Confederacy, had seen an expansion of slavery because the presence of Union troops was low as the American Civil War ended; thus, the enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation had been slow and inconsistent.  Emancipation came at different times in different parts of the four Confederate states.  Large celebrations of emancipation were often called Jubilees.

Early celebration date back to 1866, at first involving church-centered community gatherings in Texas.  They spread across the South amongst newly freed African American slaves and their descendants.  Beginning in Texas by proclamation in 1938, and by legislation in 1979, every U.S. state has formally recognized the holiday in some way.  Formerly enslaved people in Galveston rejoiced when the Emancipation Proclamation reached Galveston.  One year later, on June 19, 1866, freemen in Texas organized the first of what became annual commemoration of “Jubilee Day”. 

In the late 1979, Texas Legislature declared Juneteenth a “holiday of significance, particularly to the blacks of Texas.  Texas became the first state to establish Juneteenth as a state holiday.

The day was recognized as a federal holiday in 2021, when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law.  Juneteenth became the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was adopted in 1983.

Celebrations and Traditions

The holiday is considered the “longest-running African-American holiday and has been called “America’s second independence Day.  Early celebrations consisted of baseball, fishing, and rodeos.  They were often held at churches or near water.  Celebrations were characterized by elaborate large meals and people wearing their best clothing. 

Observance today is primarily in local celebrations.  Traditions include public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation which promised freedom, singing traditional songs and reading of works by noted African-American writers.  Celebrations include picnics, rodeos, street fairs, cookouts, family reunions, park parties, historical reenactments, blues festivals, and Miss Juneteenth contests.  Red food and drinks are traditional during the celebrations, including red velvet cake and strawberry soda, with red meant to represent resilience and joy.

Library is closed due to potential of inclement weather

Due to Hurricane Beryl the city has closed all city departments Monday July 8th 2024. All items due will be renewed.