On June 19, 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, with 2,000 Union troops with a message for the more than 250,000 enslaved Black people there.

They were finally free.

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day or the Second Independence Day, celebrates African-American freedom in the United States. Wednesday marks the fourth year that Juneteenth has been a federal holiday.

It’s also the fourth year that Florida has declined to make it a state holiday.

What is Juneteenth?

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed enslaved people in the United States as of Jan. 1, 1863.

But it was left up to slaveowners to tell their enslaved people about their new freedom, and many of them simply ignored it since at the time it couldn’t be enforced in secessionist states under Confederate control, according to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It took nearly 2½ years with many people still enslaved until Granger assured the newly freed residents of Galveston that Union troops would enforce it.

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free,” Granger announced. “This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves and the connection heretofore existing between them, becomes that between employer and hired labor. The Freedmen are advised to remain at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

The first Juneteenth celebration to mark the date was held in Galveston the very next year, in 1866, and it spread as African Americans migrated away from the South. But many white people mocked it.

After Reconstruction ended, Juneteenth and Florida’s own Emancipation Day celebrations were smaller, subdued affairs amid renewed calls for racial segregation and the rise of racial violence, lynchings and Jim Crow laws in the state and across the South. It wasn’t until the civil rights protests of the 1960s and 70s many decades later when Juneteenth and Emancipation Day were finally celebrated in a big way as an act of defiance and pride, according to James Schnur’s history of the holidays in TheGabber.com.

Gov. Lawton Chiles signed the Juneteenth Observance Bill into law in May 1991, calling on “public officials, schools, private organizations, and all citizens to honor the historic significance” of June 19.

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Does Florida observe Juneteenth?

Every U.S. state has recognized Juneteenth as a holiday or observance, and “at least 28 states and the District of Columbia have designated Juneteenth as a permanent paid and/or legal holiday” at least once, according to the Congressional Research Service. Texas was the first state to officially observe it, in 1980, but Florida was the second in 1991, well before the rest of the country.

However, Florida, along with states like California, Hawaii, Pennsylvania and more than two dozen others does not officially recognize the holiday and doesn’t include the date on official state calendars as a paid holiday.

Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a resolution in 2020 calling upon Floridians to honor Juneteenth. “Juneteenth is an important opportunity to honor the principles of the Declaration of Independence and celebrate the achievements and contributions African Americans have made, and continue to make, in Florida and across our Nation,” the resolution read.

He has not issued any other Juneteenth resolutions since and repeated attempts to make Juneteenth an official state holiday have failed in the Florida Legislature. The last was in 2022.

Some county commissions and city councils have declared Juneteenth a recognized holiday and closed offices. In April Lakeland officials voted unanimously to make Juneteenth a paid holiday for city workers, starting this year.

What is Emancipation Day in Florida?

Instead, like many other states Florida celebrates the day slavery ended inside its borders.

Union Gen. Edward M. McCook announced the Emancipation Proclamation in Tallahassee on May 20, 1865, a little more than a month after Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. May 20 is honored in Florida as Emancipation Day (although it isn’t a paid holiday, either).

As with Juneteenth, the date gained more prominence and significance during the civil rights marches and protests in the later twentieth century.

“Celebrating the 20th of May as Emancipation Day is a long-held tradition in Tallahassee and other parts of Florida,” Secretary of State Cord Byrd said in a release. “Especially during the Capital City’s bicentennial year, this annual commemoration allows us to come together as a community in the spirit of celebration, history, and freedom.”

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Is Juneteenth a paid holiday in Florida? Do we work on Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is a federal holiday, not an official state one. For federal workers it’s a paid holiday and nonessential federal workers will have the day off, although some businesses offer it as a paid day for their employees.

Only about half of the states in the U.S. recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday, although more are considering it.

Why is it called Juneteenth?

“Juneteenth” is a portmanteau, combining the words “June” and “nineteenth,” the day Granger issued the proclamation.

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When is Juneteenth observed?

Juneteenth is observed every year on June 19th.

What is closed on Juneteenth 2024? Is the post office open on Juneteenth?

The Federal Bank Reserve observes Juneteenth and will be closed that day, so most banks also will be closed. All U.S post offices will be closed and mail will not be delivered. All non-essential federal offices will be closed. Some local governments may opt to close Wednesday.

Some businesses, such as Starbucks, give their employees the option of a day off but most businesses will remain open.

Contributors: Brandon Girod, Pensacola News-Journal; Eric Lagatta, USA TODAY