The celebration takes place on June 19 because on that day in 1865, Union Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to order the legal release of slaves with President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
The Proclamation actually went into effect on January 1, 1883, but it took almost two and a half years to issue the order to the entire United States, Nancy Pelosi said in a press release.
Juneteenth festivities in Galveston began a year after Granger reached the city. The local community still recognizes the event with a 10-day celebration, including a public reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, according to DiversityInc magazine.
Texas became the first of 25 states to officially recognize Juneteenth in 1980, and Texas Rep. Al Edwards is currently working on legislation that would fund monuments in Austin and Galveston, the magazine reports.