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On June 19, 1865, nearly two years after President Abraham Lincoln emancipated enslaved Africans in America, Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas with news of freedom. More than 250,000 African Americans embraced freedom by executive decree in what became known as Juneteenth or Freedom Day. With the principles of self-determination, citizenship, and democracy magnifying their hopes and dreams, those Texans held fast to the promise of true liberty for all. Source: National Museum of African American History and Culture

Opal Lee

Opal Lee

Retired educator Opal Lee of Texas set an ambitious new goal just before her 90th birthday in 2016. She decided to embark upon a walking pilgrimage to Washington, DC, to raise awareness about making Juneteenth a holiday. Lee got her wish in 2021 when President Joe Biden signed a bill officially making Juneteenth (June 19) a national holiday.

Lee has said, "[Juneteenth] should be a unifier. First of all, slaves did not free themselves. It took abolitionists and Quakers and all kinds of folks to help and lobby to get the slaves freed. We need to acknowledge that and we need to unify and help people to come to the realization that working together is ... a lot better than trying to do things by yourself. I truly believe that we can do so much more together rather than apart."

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Al Edwards

Al Edwards

Called the “Father of Juneteenth”, Albert Ely Edwards founded in 1985 Juneteenth USA, the oldest Juneteenth nonprofit advocacy organization in the US. Its purpose at its founding was to raise awareness of the Juneteenth holiday and to encourage US state legislatures to pass Juneteenth as a state holiday. Under Edwards’ leadership, over 30 state legislatures around the country passed a bill making Juneteenth or “June 19th” a state holiday.

Edwards served in the Texas State Legislature for 28 years for Houston’s District 146. His first major law was to ensure the establishment of a holiday that recognized the emancipation of slavery. Celebrated on June 19th, Juneteenth commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas. Legislation recognizing Juneteenth, initiated by Edwards, passed the Texas State Legislature and was signed into law in 1979. Edwards passed away in 2020, a year before the state holiday would become a national holiday.

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Sharon Jordan Holley

Sharon Jordan Holley

Sharon Jordan Holley is a retired librarian and storyteller from Buffalo, New York. She is a lifetime member of the National Association of Black Storytellers and the 2009 recipient of the Zora Neale Hurston Award, their highest award for excellence in storytelling.

A student of history and strong community advocate, Holley has worked with Juneteenth of Buffalo, Inc., which started as a festival in 1976 to be a culturally relevant alternative to the USA’s Bicentennial Celebration. The popular event has grown and happens each year in Buffalo’s Martin Luther King Jr. Park.

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Carole Boston Weatherford

Carole Boston Weatherford

Carole Boston Weatherford is a college professor and best-selling children’s book author. She wrote the beautifully illustrated 1995 book, Juneteenth Jamboree, which chronicles young Cassandra’s discovery and excitement about the activities of her new town’s celebration.

In Juneteenth Jamboree, Cassandra gradually learns the significance of the historic celebration and how the parades, dances, and picnic bring all the community together. Publishers Weekly said the book’s “enthusiastic text allows readers to discover–and celebrate–the holiday along with Cassandra.”

Weatherford has authored over 40 books, including Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, which won a Caldecott Honor Medal. Her books counter racist stereotypes and celebrate the African-American freedom struggle. She is a longtime professor of English at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina.

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Jack Yates

Jack Yates

As one of the most important community leaders in Texas after the Civil War, pastor and educator John Henry “Jack” Yates was instrumental in establishing some of the most important places and institutions in Houston, including Freedman’s Town, Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, Texas Southern University, and Juneteenth’s Emancipation Park.

Born into slavery in 1828 in Virginia, Yates and his family moved to Houston after slavery’s end in Texas in 1865. Within five years he had saved enough money to purchase his own house and several lots nearby. In 1872, Yates and other Freedman residents – Elias Dibble, Richard Allen and Richard Brock – purchased 10 acres of land for $800 and named it Emancipation Park, to honor their newly received freedom and to serve as a place to celebrate Juneteenth with their families. Today Emancipation Park is recognized as the oldest public park in Texas. The park still continues to host on its hallowed grounds the city’s annual celebration of Juneteenth.

After his death in December 1897, Yates's legacy also lived on through his family; many of his 12 children and their offspring remained in Texas and became prominent community leaders in their own right.

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Annette Gordon-Reed

Annette Gordon-Reed

Historian Annette Gordon-Reed is a Harvard University professor and author of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize–winning book The Hemingses of Monticello. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she earned both the National Humanities Medal and the MacArthur Genius Grant Fellowship in 2010.

Gordon-Reed grew up in Livingston, Texas, and is the descendant of enslaved people brought to the state in the 1820s. She wrote On Juneteenth, which was named one of the New York Times’ best books of 2021. It traces the sweeping story of Juneteenth’s importance to American history and the integral role of African-Americans in Texas’ history. Her book recounts Juneteenth’s origins in 1860s Texas and the enormous hardships that African-Americans have endured from Reconstruction, through Jim Crow, and beyond.

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Juneteenth Flag

The Juneteenth Flag © National Juneteenth Observance Foundation

People designed this flag to tell the story of Juneteenth

The colors: The colors of the American flag – red white and blue
This is to say that the people freed in Texas were American citizens
The 5-point star is a symbol for Texas (the Lone Star State)
Texas is where the Juneteenth holiday started
They added the big star to tell about the spread of freedom

Juneteenth Fact Sheet - compiled by the Congressional Research Service

Official Juneteenth Poem

We rose

By Kristina Kay. “We Rose”. ©1996. Web

Skills of art, life, beauty and family
Crushed by forces we knew nothing of, we rose

Survive we must, we did,
We rose

We rose to be you, we rose to be me,
Above everything expected, we rose

To become the knowledge we never knew,
We rose

Dream, we did
Act we must

Recommended Reads


Juneteenth Events

Wed, Jul 24, 2:30pm - 5:00pm
New Carrollton - Large meeting room 2
We are proud to present a special screening of "The Price of the Ticket," followed by an enlightening discussion led by Dr. Jason Nichols, African American History Studies Professor at the University of Maryland.
Registration is now closed

Thu, Jul 25, 12:30pm - 1:30pm
Margaret Adams, a free Black woman, owned her own tavern in 1800’s Prince George’s County. While most Black Marylanders were enslaved, Margaret Adams defied the slaveholding society and built a successful business. Explore the world of Margaret Adams and see how she resisted one of Maryland's most powerful families.

Tue, Jul 30, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Virtual Branch
This summer, grab your favorite lunch at noon and tune in to virtual conversations with the Prince George’s County Office of Human Rights and the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System on topics from how racism is making us sick to human trafficking awareness to increasing equity and opportunity in the sciences. Let’s learn together!

Mon, Aug 05, 12:30pm - 3:30pm
Fairmount Heights
Before the Tuskegee Airmen, there was the Cloud Club, led by John Greene. These Black civilian aviators built a community not only for aviation but also for recreation during the Jim Crow era. Explore how the first Black pilots in the United States made a way out of no way, trained the Tuskegee Airmen, and created a community of Black aviators.

Tue, Aug 13, 2:00pm - 3:30pm
New date Saturday, August 24, 2:00pm - 3:30pm
Writing Revolution is a reading of essays, memoirs, and poetry composed by local Black writers to commemorate Black August. These writers will share their perspectives and solutions for reclaiming liberation and autonomy through their artistry.

Tue, Aug 20, 2:00pm - 3:00pm
Oxon Hill
Listen to pianist Desmond Charles play from the Truth Room African American sheet music collection. We have limited seating capacity in the Truth Room, so please register.

Sat, Aug 24, 2:00pm - 3:30pm
Writing Revolution is a reading of essays, memoirs, and poetry composed by local Black writers to commemorate Black August. These writers will share their perspectives and solutions for reclaiming liberation and autonomy through their artistry.

Sat, Sep 07, 11:30am - 12:30pm
Hyattsville - Meeting Room 2
In this workshop, students will take a captivating journey into the world of blues singing, where storytelling takes center stage. We'll delve into the rich tradition of blues music, where every song tells a heartfelt story. All you need to bring is yourself, courage, and water. Get ready to unlock the power of blues storytelling through song!

Juneteenth Watchlist: What to Watch in Celebration of Juneteenth


Kanopy is an online video streaming platform with 26,000 movies, doh2cumentaries, and indie and foreign films from over hundreds of producers including The Criterion Collection, The Great Courses, Kino Lorber, PBS, and thousands of independent filmmakers. Users are limited to 10 videos streamed every month.

Movies and TV

Online Exhibits

Juneteenth Timeline



Black slaves are smuggled through the Texas port of Galveston.


Mexico adopts a constitution freeing the slaves within its borders, including Texas, but American settlers in Texas continue to hold slaves.




The Texas Revolution erupts against Mexico and leads to the formation of the independent Republic of Texas.

December 29, 1845

Texas enters the Union as the 28th state; it is admitted as a slave state.



February 1861

Texas becomes the seventh state to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy.

January 1, 1863

President Abraham Lincoln read the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves in the United States.



May 1865

Soldiers from the 62nd United States Colored Troops are involved in the last military skirmish of the Civil War at White's Ranch in Texas.

June 19, 1865

First Juneteenth. Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger of the Union Army rode into Galveston, Texas, to announce (belatedly) the emancipation of African slaves.



January 1, 1980

Juneteenth became an official holiday in Texas

June 19, 2020

Maryland Governor, Larry Hogan (R), issues a proclamation recognizing Juneteenth as an Official State Holiday to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans.



June 19, 2021

US President Joe Biden officially makes June 19th - Juneteenth a national holiday.


With Minneasota and Tennessee, there are now at least 22 states and the District of Columbia that have designated Juneteenth as a permanent paid and/or legal holiday through legislation or executive action.




Opal Lee, the grandmother of Juneteenth, receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Joe Biden at the White House.

Work Cited:

Juneteenth/ African American History in Texas Timeline

Jones, H. J. (2020). Texas Timeline. In The American Mosaic: The African American Experience. Retrieved from

Brooks, C. (2020). Juneteenth. In The American Mosaic: The African American Experience. Retrieved from