After years of campaigning for Juneteenth to be recognized as a national holiday, Juneteenth National Independence Day was officially signed into law by President Joe Biden on Thursday. The holiday honors June 19, 1865, the day in history when Black people in Galveston, Texas, were told they were no longer enslaved, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
Though Juneteenth was celebrated long before it was designated a federal holiday, this year it was cause for wide celebration across the United States.
In Brooklyn, New York, people gathered for the unveiling of a George Floyd statue, including his brother Terrence Floyd and rapper Papoose.
Opal Lee, a 94-year-old Texas resident who’s been a longtime advocate for making Juneteenth a federal holiday, celebrated this milestone by walking for 2.5 miles in her hometown of Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday.
Lee’s 2.5-mile walk is symbolic of the two and a half years it took for enslaved people in Texas to learn they’d been freed after the Civil War ended. Back in 2016, Lee, who is known as the "Grandmother of Juneteenth," even walked from Fort Worth to Washington, DC, in an effort to bring attention to Juneteenth.
“I’ve got so many different feelings all gurgling up in here. I don’t know what to call them all. I am so delighted to know that suddenly we’ve got a Juneteenth. It’s not a Texas thing or a Black thing. It’s an American thing,” Lee told CBS when she learned that Congress had passed a bill to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday.
“We might take a breather, but we’ve got all these disparities we’ve got to address, and I mean all of them. While we got the momentum, I hope we can get some of it done. We can have one America if we try,” she said.
Lee was also invited to the White House on Thursday to witness Biden signing legislation designating Juneteenth a federal holiday.
People in Atlanta gathered for a parade in honor of Juneteenth.
In Washington, DC, others gathered in Black Lives Matter Plaza to celebrate the new federal holiday, including a bride and groom who danced in the midst of the gathering.
In Galveston, Texas, the town where Juneteenth originated in 1865, onlookers watched a parade from a decorated house.
A crowd marched in Louisville, Kentucky.
At St. Augustine Catholic Church in New Orleans, people held a ceremony and gave musical performances.