top of page
The Beginning of Juneteenth

has roots as far back as January 1st, 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and declared slavery to be outlawed. Enforcement of the proclamation relied on Union troops but faced continued rebel resistance due to the Civil War that was still waging in the country. On April 9th, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant ending the Civil War. For months, the impact of the Emancipation Proclamation and the surrender struggled to make an effect on the south, specifically Texas, due to too few Union troops being available to enforce the orders.


Galveston, Texas

Commanding Officer Granger was given command of the Department of Texas on June 10th, 1865, and set out for Galveston to handle the enforcement. As Granger came ashore on June 19th, he ordered his soldiers to travel throughout the town and countryside, demanding slaveholders to free their enslaved blacks immediately. Although there is some debate on whether or not Granger made a public ceremony, it is widely accepted the announcement created many joyful displays by the recently freed enslaved blacks.

Following these events, the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery nationwide on December 6th, 1865. This date was viewed as the end of slavery by a majority of the country. However, in 1980, State Representative Al Edwards, now known as the Father of Juneteenth, became the primary advocate to approve Juneteenth as a state holiday in Texas. Prior to 1980, many Black Americans celebrated the date since the late 1800s but there was no federal or state recognition.

The Name

The holiday has gone by many different names through the decades including “Jubilee Day”, “Emancipation Day”, “Freedom Day”, and “Black Independence Day” but finally reached national presence as “Juneteenth” starting in 2019. Other states such as New Hampshire (2019), New York (2020), and New Jersey (2020) also began to recognize Juneteenth creating a movement to adopt the date as a national holiday.

A New Era

Starting in 2020 many major brands such as Twitter, Square, Vox Media, Nike, the N.F.L., Best Buy, and Target made announcements to recognize the holiday, making the celebration a paid day off. In 2021, President Joe Biden declared June 19th a federal holiday, Juneteenth, allowing everyone an opportunity to educate, celebrate, and connect. What makes this holiday’s announcement even more profound is that it is the first nationally recognized holiday since MLK Day in 1983.

Juneteenth Influencers


Estevanico, also known as Mustafa Azemmouri or Esteban de Dorantes or simply Esteban, was a Moroccan explorer who is believed to have been born in the late 15th century. He was enslaved by the Portuguese government and later sold to a Spanish nobleman. In 1527, he was part of a Spanish expedition to Florida led by Panfilo de Narvaez, but the expedition was a disaster and the survivors, including Estevanico, were shipwrecked off the Galveston coast of Texas in 1528. He became the first North African to set foot on what is now the United States and is considered a pioneering explorer of the American Southwest.

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman (1822-1913) was an American abolitionist, humanitarian, and an armed scout and spy for the Union Army during the American Civil War. Born into slavery, Tubman escaped to freedom in 1849 and subsequently made more than a dozen missions to rescue approximately 70 enslaved people, including family and friends, using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. She also played a key role in the Combahee River Raid, an operation in which Union forces liberated more than 700 slaves in South Carolina. Tubman's bravery and commitment to freedom continue to inspire generations.

Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln played a significant role in the history of Juneteenth, even though he was assassinated before the holiday's creation. In 1863, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that all enslaved Africans in Confederate territory were to be set free. Although it did not immediately free all enslaved Blacks the proclamation was a crucial step in ending slavery in the United States. When Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 and read General Order No. 3, they did so under the authority of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. As a result, Lincoln's actions paved the way for the eventual end of slavery and the establishment of Juneteenth as a day of celebration and remembrance.

Major Gordon Granger
Major Gordon Granger

Major General Gordon Granger played a crucial role in the history of Juneteenth. On June 19th, 1865, Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas with Union troops and read General Order No. 3, which declared that all enslaved people in Texas were free. This marked the end of slavery in the United States and has been celebrated as Juneteenth ever since. Granger's leadership and the enforcement of this order were instrumental in ensuring that the enslaved people in Texas were made aware of their freedom, and his actions paved the way for the eventual celebration and remembrance of Juneteenth as an important day in American history.

Union Soldiers

After Union Troops arrived in Galveston, Texas with General Gordon Granger and read General Order No. 3 on June 19th, 1865, Union soldiers began to spread across Texas to enforce the order and ensure that all enslaved people were informed of their freedom. This was a difficult and dangerous task, as many slave owners were resistant to the idea of emancipation and some even resorted to violence. Union soldiers worked to establish military control over the state and to protect the newly freed people from harm. Their efforts were instrumental in ensuring that the end of slavery was enforced and that African Americans in Texas were able to begin their new lives as free citizens.

Al Edwards Sr.

State Representative, Hon. Albert Ely Edwards was born in Houston, Texas on March 19, 1937. At the age of forty-one, Edwards entered politics and was elected to the Texas State Legislature from Houston’s House District 146. His first major goal was to ensure the establishment of a holiday that recognized the emancipation of slavery. In 1979, legislation recognizing Juneteenth Day, initiated by Edwards, passed the Texas State Legislature and was signed into law. This feat earned Edwards the title of the "Father of Juneteenth".  
Al Edwards Sr. passed away on April 29, 2020.

Ronald Meyers.jpg
Ronald V. Meyers

Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D., was a prominent Juneteenth activist and advocate. He played a pivotal role in spearheading the modern-day Juneteenth movement. As the founder and chairman of several organizations, including the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, Dr. Myers tirelessly worked to promote and raise awareness of Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. His unwavering dedication and advocacy made a significant impact on the recognition and celebration of Juneteenth as a national holiday. Dr. Myers' legacy continues to inspire and contribute to the ongoing commemoration of Juneteenth in the United States.

Steve Williams

Steve Williams is a prominent Juneteenth activist renowned for his pivotal role in advancing the recognition of Juneteenth as a national holiday. As President of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, his leadership has been instrumental in advocating for this historical day. Williams' dedication to Juneteenth aligns with its significance in American history, symbolizing the end of slavery. His work fosters a profound understanding of this commemoration's importance, bridging historical awareness and contemporary relevance. Williams' scholarly contributions extend beyond activism, emphasizing the cultural and historical richness of Juneteenth, contributing to a more comprehensive understanding of America's complex heritage.

Ms. Opal Lee.jpg
Ms. Opal Lee

Another more modern influential advocate for Juneteenth is Mrs. Opal Lee. Mrs. Lee is a Texan born in 1926 who fondly remembers celebrating Juneteenth with her family growing up. She became a teacher, counselor, and activist in the movement to make Juneteenth a federally-recognized holiday. One of her greatest accomplishments was conducting a walk from Fort Worth to Washington to plead with congress to recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday. What makes the feat even more impressive is that she was 89 years old at the time of the walk, dubbing her the nickname “Grandmother of Juneteenth”.

Sheila Jackson Lee

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who has represented the Houston area in the US Congress since 1995, has also been a strong advocate for Juneteenth and has worked to have it recognized as a national holiday. In 2013, she introduced a resolution in Congress to make Juneteenth a national holiday, and in 2021 the resolution was passed and President Biden declared into federal law that Juneteenth would be acknowledged as a national holiday in the United State.  Even beyond the holiday being acknowledged, Congresswoman Jackson Lee has remained committed to raising awareness about the importance of Juneteenth.

President Joe Biden

On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bill into law establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday, commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. The bill was passed unanimously by the Senate, and only 14 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted against it. Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black and South Asian woman to hold the office, also spoke at the signing ceremony. The new holiday marks the first federal holiday created since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established in 1983, and reflects a growing recognition of the ongoing legacy of slavery and racism in American society.

Reginald C. Adams

Reginald C Adams, an award winning and world renowned Houston-based artist, has been instrumental in commemorating Juneteenth with the Absolute Equality-Juneteenth mural project, which has been touring cities across America. Beginning in 2021 in Galveston, Texas, the first Absolute Equality mural project, by Adams, inspired the nation-wide endeavor.  The national initiative features large-scale murals Houston, Dallas, Shreveport, Miami, Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia, that celebrate the history and heritage of Juneteenth, the day when enslaved people in Texas were finally informed of their freedom, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Adams and his team have collaborated with community members to create the murals, which highlight prominent Black historical figures, symbols of African American culture, and the struggles and triumphs of the Black community. Through his powerful creative vision, Adams has been spreading awareness and appreciation of Black history and culture, inspiring greater unity and absolute equality for all.

bottom of page