After 156 Years, Juneteenth is a National Holiday

Biden signs bipartisan bill into law, but struggles continue


After Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, it took more than two years of bloody warfare for its goal of ending slavery in the United States was fully realized. By June of 1865, there were still more than 250,000 enslaved in Texas, the last foothold in the south. On June 19, Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger announced on the island of Galveston that all enslaved people in Texas were free, effectively ending slavery in America.

Mrs. Charles Stephenson (Grace Murray) - The Portal to Texas History Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.

Mrs. Charles Stephenson (Grace Murray) – The Portal to Texas History Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.

General Order No. 3, June 19, 1865

General Order No. 3, June 19, 1865

Since then, the movement to celebrate this new Independence Day as a holiday – Juneteenth National Independence Day — has grown through 47 states, including Pennsylvania.

Today, President Joe Biden signed bipartisan legislation making Juneteenth a national holiday, the first new holiday created since Martin Luther King Day was signed into law in 1983.

The struggle continues, however. Backlash against the recognition of the true role of slavery and racism in our history and our economy endures. We must continue to teach.  We must continue to learn. And we must continue the courage, with love and peace, to resist attempts to ignore the sins of our past rather than grow from them.

Philadelphia offers numerous ways to celebrate this weekend.  There’s the Juneteenth Parade and Festival, which has been held since 2016.  And the Johnson House Historic Site will be holding a Juneteenth Festival on Saturday.

For more events in Philadelphia, visit the city’s website, or the tourism site.