The day that African Americans have set aside to celebrate our freedom from slavery in the United States of America is now a Federal Holiday in America.

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On Thursday, June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed Senate Bill S.475, otherwise known as the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, into law. S.475 recognizes June 19th as a national public holiday. It was passed unanimously in the Senate and passed in the House by a vote of 415 Yays & 14 Nays. You can see a list of who voted for and against this holiday here on the Congress official website.

So many people have asked, what is Juneteenth? Juneteenth is the oldest celebration of the end of slavery in the United States of America and has been celebrated in Buffalo since at least 1976. The Buffalo celebration routinely ranks one of the largest celebrations in America.

Juneteenth was the oldest known observance of the ending of slavery in the United States. According to historical records, the celebration began on June 19, 1865, the day Major General Gordon Granger of the Union Army rode into Galveston, Texas in final execution of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Issued by President Abraham Lincoln on September 22, 1862, the Emancipation Proclamation stated, among other things, "That on the 1st day of January, A.D., 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State the people whereof shall they be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free..."
-History of Juneteenth, Juneteenth Festival of Buffalo, Inc.

Even though slavery ended in 1863 after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, there were still large parts of the country where slavery was still in existence. It took more than 2 years before the last group of slaves was freed by General Granger in Galveston, Tx.

COVID-19 has put a damper on the traditional Juneteenth celebrations we see in Buffalo, but there are quite a few smaller celebrations happening throughout Western New York. You can find a list of those activities here.

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