Photos Of How People Celebrated Juneteenth 100 Years Ago

Juneteenth is now a federal holiday. How have Americans been celebrating it since the end of the Civil War?

A group of men with musical instruments in a field with an American flag
Wikimedia Commons

Emancipation Day Celebration band, June 19, 1900

On Thursday, President Joe Biden signed a bill designating June 19, also known as Juneteenth, as a federal holiday. Black communities in different parts of the country have recognized Juneteenth for a long time, but more recently it has turned into a national reckoning.

“Juneteenth has become a moment for the nation to recognize the end of slavery, or an end of slavery,” said Dr. Brian Purnell of Bowdoin College in an earlier interview with BuzzFeed News. Purnell has written a book about Black resistance outside of the American South and contributed to Brooklyn Resists, a public history project on display at the Center for Brooklyn History this month.

The Civil War ended in April 1865 when Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy surrendered. Before that, Congress ratified the 13th Amendment, which ruled slavery unconstitutional. “As the story goes, there are parts of Texas that didn’t learn about the end of war until later that summer in 1865. There was a Black American communal recognition, mostly in those parts of Texas and the South, who recognized Juneteenth, June 19, as the end of slavery,” Purnell told BuzzFeed News. “There is no nationally recognized moment where this country takes a pause and says, you know what, this country enslaved people, broke up families, in perpetuity for generations. Juneteenth is becoming a time when the country can do that.”

Here’s a look at how Juneteenth was celebrated long before it was nationally recognized as a holiday.

Houston Public Library Digital Archives

Martha Yates Jones (left) and Pinkie Yates (right), daughters of Rev. Jack Yates, in a decorated carriage parked in front of the Antioch Baptist Church located in Houston's Fourth Ward, 1908.

Houston Public Library Digital Archives

A group on Emancipation Day, circa the 1880s, in Houston's Emancipation Park. Rev. Jack Yates, who led the community purchase of the park in 1872, is pictured on the far left, and his daughter Sallie Yates dressed in black in the center.

A group of people in elegant clothes from the 19th century pose for a portrait
Wikimedia Commons

A group of older adults on Juneteenth. Photograph by Grace Murray Stephenson of celebrations in Eastwoods Park, Austin, 1900.

Wikimedia Commons

Mr. D.N. Leathers Sr., Walter Leathers' father, celebrating Juneteenth and driving a decorated one-horse carriage in Corpus Christi, Nueces County, Texas, 1913

A group of men in cavalry gear standing as a group in a field
Austin Public Library

Civil War reenactors at a Juneteenth celebration at Eastwoods Park, Texas, in 1900

A group of men in suits posing as a group in a field
Austin History Center

Thomas White and other members of the organization that sought to purchase Emancipation Park

Houston Public Library Digital Archives

Two women in a decorated carriage, on Robin Street, Houston, circa 1900

A group of men and two small boys in front of a picture of Abraham Lincoln
Smithsonian Institution

A group posing in front of a shop on East Main Street near 21st Street in Richmond, Virginia, on Juneteenth, circa 1900

A crowd of people rushes down the street
Detroit Publishing Company photograph collection, Library of Congress

Juneteenth celebrations in Richmond, Virginia, circa 1905

Southern Methodist University Libraries

A woman stands before a decorated carriage. Photograph by George McCuistion of Juneteenth celebrations in Corpus Christi, Texas, 1913.

Southern Methodist University Libraries

People gathered before a stage for Juneteenth celebrations in Corpus Christi, Texas, 1913

Southern Methodist University Libraries

Photograph by George McCuistion of Juneteenth celebrations in Corpus Christi, Texas, 1913