In 2021, Juneteenth became a federal holiday as well as a state legal holiday. This Juneteenth marks the first time the entire country will celebrate this important event since being signed into law.
What is Juneteenth? On June 19, 1865, news finally reached Galveston, Texas, that the Civil War had ended and all enslaved persons were now released from the bondage of slavery. This news arrived two and one-half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and two months after the end of the Civil War. Juneteenth honors and celebrates this momentous day in history.
While the history of the holiday includes the injustice of enslavement, Juneteenth should also be understood in the context of Black people’s fight for justice and freedom. Learning for Justice staff writer Coshandra Dillard notes, “Students, particularly Black students, can find empowerment in the jubilant celebrations of culture, activism and the humanity of a people.”
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of the abolition of slavery and the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. Throughout the years, several bills sought to make Juneteenth a federally recognized holiday. On June 17, 2021, Juneteenth finally became an official federal holiday.
In addition, the 2021 Washington State Legislature designated Juneteenth as a state legal holiday. In 2022, the Legislature found there was ambiguity about whether the Juneteenth state holiday is also a school holiday, and passed a new law clarifying that Juneteenth, like all other state legal holidays, is a school holiday on which school may not be taught. The Legislature encourages that Juneteenth be a day to engage in fellowship with Black/African Americans, revisit our solidarity and commitment to anti-racism, educate ourselves about the history of slavery, and continue having conversations to uplift every Washingtonian.
These resources are intended to support you as you dive deeper into the origins and meaning of this important holiday, on your own or with students:
- Browse kids’ books celebrating Juneteenth.
- Learn about Juneteenth and its historical legacy.
- Read about how formerly enslaved Blacks celebrated a year of emancipation with the first Juneteenth holiday in 1866.
- Watch Juneteenth: The Newest American Federal Holiday to learn about it becoming a federal holiday.
- Discover ways to celebrate this African American cultural tradition of music, food, and freedom.
- Learn how Juneteenth (and other celebrations) can be meaningful for families.
- Get out into nature! Juneteenth is one of the 12 days a year when a Discover Pass is not required to park on any land managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission (Parks), or the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
This article is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License and was produced by OPSI.