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18 June 2021

Today marks the first federal Juneteenth holiday, which officially falls on June 19. That being a Saturday this year, we're celebrating the new holiday a day early.

General Order No. 3. Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, June 19, 1865.

What's special about June 19? On June 19, 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3 in Galveston, Texas, announcing that in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation, "all slaves are free." He and his Union troops had arrived to enforce the law.

President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862, declaring that as of Jan. 1, 1863, all enslaved people in the states currently engaged in rebellion against the Union "shall be then, thenceforward and forever free."

It took a little while for the news to reach Texas. But they've been celebrating Juneteenth every year since.

By 2019, 47 states and the District of Columbia officially recognized Juneteenth. Texas even made it a paid holiday for state employees.

"Throughout history, Juneteenth has been known by many names: Jubilee Day. Freedom Day. Liberation Day. Emancipation Day. And today, a national holiday," Vice President Kamala Harris said at the signing ceremony before President Biden signed the bill that had passed the House 415 to 4 and the Senate unanimously.

In his remarks, President Biden honored Opal Lee, who at the age of 89 decided to walk from her home in Fort Worth to Washington, D.C., to get Juneteenth named a national holiday. He called for a standing ovation for her and later took a knee to chat with her.

"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," the president said.


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