Honoring Juneteenth

This Sunday marks Juneteenth. The holiday, also called Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, and Black Independence Day, is celebrated across the country.

What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is a portmanteau of the date June Nineteenth – “Juneteenth”. The day celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, establishing that all enslaved people in Confederate states in rebellion against the Union “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” The proclamation only applied to places under Confederate control and not to slave-holding border states or rebel areas already under Union control. Many slaveholders in the Confederacy did not comply with this or share the information with slaves.

The Civil War officially ended on April 9, 1865. Two months later, Union Major General Gordon Granger came to Galveston, Texas, and announced the end of both the Civil War and slavery. On June 19, 1865, Granger delivered Order No. 3, saying, “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”

Which states recognize Juneteenth?

Texas was the first state to recognize the holiday in 1980, and Washington recognized the holiday in 2007. As of June 2021, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) recorded 49 states and the District of Columbia commemorate or recognize the holiday. The states of Texas, New York, Virginia, Washington, and Illinois, Juneteenth recognize the date as an official paid holiday for state employees.

In 2021, the Washington Legislature passed House Bill 1016, to make Juneteenth a legal holiday. Governor Jay Inslee signed this legislation in May 2021; June 20, 2022 marks the first date of observance. The holiday is a paid day-off for state workers. King County made Juneteenth a paid holiday for county employees in 2020. Juneteenth became a federal holiday on June 17, 2021.  

Where can I celebrate Juneteenth in Washington?

The Capitol Campus in Olympia is commemorating the holiday with an event in collaboration with the Blacks United in Leadership and Diversity (BUILD) employee resource group. This is the first time Juneteenth is being celebrated as an official state holiday. There will be special appearances from Governor Jay Inslee and Representative Melanie Morgan. Speakers include the Reverend Dr. Leslie Braxton and Melannie “Peace Queen” Cunningham. This event is at capacity but will be live streamed through TVW.

Many local organizations, such as the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM), and the Washington State Parks, and the Washington State Historical Society are also holding events.

Additional resources

Happy Juneteenth!

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