(NEWSnet/AP) – June 19 has been considered a special date among many Black American communities for more than 150 years.

That date marks the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas found out they had been freed by federal rule. This was after the end of the Civil War, and two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Over the decades, June 19 was referred to as Juneteenth National Independence Day, Freedom Day, Emancipation Day, Black Fourth of July and second Independence Day.

Texas was the first state to declare it an official holiday in 1980.

The title of Juneteenth was adopted when the occasion was adopted as a federal holiday in 2021. Opal Lee, who was by then a retired educator and community volunteer in Texas, is credited with helping to bring the idea to the national level. She attended the signing hosted by President Joe Biden setting the national holiday in to the calendar.

In the early years, Juneteenth festivities centered around cookouts and barbecues, family-reunion style. Such gatherings in the years after the Civil War were a chance to welcome back family members who had been separated; along with providing an antidote to Confederate-era restrictions on public gatherings for formerly enslaved people.

A plethora of community festivals, fairs, concerts and other events now take place on or around that date.

Last week, the White House hosted a festive concert on the South Lawn as an early Juneteenth event. Singers Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle were among the lineup of artists from gospel, rap, jazz and other genres.

“Today as we celebrate Juneteenth, together we are reminded of the promise of America,” Vice President Kamala Harris said in opening remarks at the program. “A promise of freedom, liberty and opportunity, not for some but for all. In many ways the story of Juneteenth and of our nation is a story of our ongoing fight to realize that promise.”

What’s Closed or Open?


All U.S. Postal Service offices will be closed to observe the holiday.

All Social Security offices will be closed to observe the holiday.

All IRS offices will be closed to observe the holiday.

Juneteenth will be a bank holiday for most financial institutions, under the Federal Reserve calendar.

The New York Stock Exchange will not be open on the holiday.

This year, the National Park Service is making entry into all sites free on Juneteenth.

State and local declarations affecting other services and offices will vary by location.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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