Berkeley Lab

History of Juneteenth

Juneteenth (a combination of June and nineteenth), also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, and Liberation Day, is celebrated annually on the 19th of June to commemorate Union army general Gordon Granger’s reading of federal orders in the city of Galveston, Texas, on 19 June 1865, proclaiming all enslaved persons in Texas were free.

On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger and approximately 2,000 federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people were freed. The announcement of freedom and its enforcement were particularly important in Texas. Since the capture of New Orleans in 1862 by Union troops, enslavers from Mississippi, Louisiana, and other eastern areas had been migrating to Texas with more than 150,000 enslaved people to avoid the Union Army, according to historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in an article in

The Emancipation Proclamation had formally freed them almost two and a half years earlier, and the American Civil War had largely ended with the defeat of the Confederate States in April 1865. However, Texas was the most remote of the southern states, with a low presence of Union troops, so enforcement of the proclamation had been slow and inconsistent. For decades the date of June 19 was celebrated in the African-American community as a day of freedom and independence. While some states marked the day as a holiday, it was only last year when it became a federal holiday.

This year the Lab’s African American Employee Resource Group (AAERG) is celebrating this date with several Lab events. Join a session on Wednesday, June 15 at noon to learn more about the holiday and how it is celebrated from AAERG member Katrina King.

For the first time, the Lab’s African American ERG and the Government & Community Relations Office will have a Lab booth at the Berkeley Juneteenth Festival on Sunday, June 19.  The office of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accountability (IDEA) at the Lab lists additional Juneteenth events around the Bay Area on Sunday, June 19.

Learn more about this important date in American history:


Texas Institute for the Preservation of History and Culture


Letter from Mike Witherell, June 19, 2020: Please join me in celebrating and reflecting on Juneteenth