Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Union Soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation-which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on Texas due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger's regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance. Later, attempts to explain this two-and-a-half-year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. All or none of the stories could be true. For whatever the reason, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.
A range of activities provided entertain to the masses, many of which continue in tradition today. Rodeos, fishing, barbecuing, and baseball, are just a few of the typical Juneteenth activities you may witness today. Juneteenth usually focused on self-improvement, education, a historic recount the events of the past and prayer services as a major part of the celebrations.
Certain foods became popular and subsequently synonymous with the celebration, such as strawberry soda-pop. More traditional and just as popular was the barbecuing. This was through which participants could share in the spirit and aromas that their ancestors would have enjoyed during the ceremonies. Hence, the barbecue pit is often established as the center of attention at Juneteenth celebrations. Dress was also an important element in early Juneteenth customs, and is often taken seriously, particularly by the direct descendants who can make the connection to this tradition's roots.
In some cases in the early years, there was an outright resistance, and people would bar the use of public property for the festivities. Most of the festivities found themselves out in rural areas around rivers and creeks that would provide for additional activities such as fishing, horseback riding, and barbecues. Often, the church grounds were the sites for the festivities.
On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official holiday in Texas, through the efforts of Al Edwards, an African American state legislator. The successful passage of this bill marked Juneteenth as the first emancipation celebration granted official state recognition.
On June 15, 2021, the Senate unanimously passed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act,  establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday; it subsequently passed through the House of Representatives by a 415-14 vote on June 16, 2021.
Juneteenth symbolizes the end of slavery, and symbolizes for many African-Americans, what the Fourth of July symbolizes for all Americans. For Americans that is freedom. While blacks celebrate the Fourth of July in honor of American Independence Day, history reminds us that blacks were still enslaved when the United States gained its independence.
Passed legislation allows Juneteenth National Freedom Day to be observed with suitable observances and exercises by civic groups and the public, while citizens of the States recognizing the holiday are urged to reflect on the suffering endured by early African-Americans and to celebrate the unique freedom and equality enjoyed by all US citizens today.