LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — For many Americans, June 19 represents a holiday that isn’t commonly known but plays a significant part in American history -- Juneteenth.
Its origins go back to 1865 and Galveston, Texas, when federal troops arrived and gave the order that all enslaved people in the state of Texas must be freed.
This was more than two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863. The proclamation ordered slave owners to free slaves in 10 Confederate states.
Historians state Lincoln didn’t actually free any of the approximately 4 million men, women and children held in slavery in the United States when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
The document only applied to enslaved people in the Confederacy, and excluding those located in bordering states. This later led Lincoln to shift his views on slavery and would ultimately lead to redefining the Civil War.
Over the last few years, many states have taken strides to celebrate this holiday with festivals, parades, marches, cultural fairs, and live performances.
According to Steve Williams, the president of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, told USA Today, “the first known Juneteenth celebrations began in 1866 and spread across the country as African Americans migrated to new cities.”
With the rise of awareness of this holiday, the House voted 415-14 on Wednesday to make Juneteenth or June 19 the 12th federal holiday. President Biden signed it into law on June 17.
Many states already recognized Juneteenth as a holiday or conducted an official observance of the day while other states hosted celebrations.
In states like Texas, New York, Virginia and Washington, Juneteenth was already a paid holiday for state employees.
The City of Las Vegas is no stranger to celebrating Juneteenth as a holiday, and for many years those within the African American community have taken steps to both celebrate and educate people about Juneteenth significance to their culture and history.