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Juneteenth is this week – The newest federal holiday commemorates the end of slavery

June 18, 2024

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USPS will observe Juneteenth National Independence Day, the country’s newest federal holiday, on Wednesday, June 19.

Juneteenth is the oldest known nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

The holiday gets its name from the date in 1865 when 2,000 federal troops arrived in Galveston, TX, and declared enslaved persons there free by executive decree — more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863.

Enforcement of the proclamation relied heavily on the presence of Union troops, and as the westernmost state in the Confederacy, Texas did not have a strong Union presence. This allowed slavery to retain its grip there long after emancipation was proclaimed.

The first Juneteenth observance took place in 1866, and as those who were formerly enslaved in Texas moved throughout the country, they brought the holiday with them.

Juneteenth was also the reason for the creation of Houston’s Emancipation Park. In 1872, four former slaves bought 10 acres of land in the city to commemorate the end of slavery. In its early years, the park was used only for Juneteenth celebrations.

Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021.

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture website has more information.

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