Juneteenth, an American holiday celebrated on June 19, commemorates the day in 1865 when the Emancipation Proclamation — the federal order ending slavery in the United States — was read to enslaved African Americans in Texas.
On that day, Union troops led by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Texas, where he announced the end of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery nationwide. The war had ended just two months earlier, when Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865; and it had been two years and nearly six months since the proclamation ending slavery was signed by President Abraham Lincoln, on Jan. 1, 1863.
However, Confederate states that were still in open rebellion against the federal government in 1863 didn’t recognize President Lincoln’s authority, and many slaveholders didn’t comply with the order until Union troops arrived to enforce it, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC).
After learning they were free, formerly enslaved African Americans in Texas adopted June 19, nicknamed Juneteenth, as a day to celebrate freedom. In the following decades, the holiday — also known as Emancipation Day and Black Independence Day — was embraced by African American people across the country