Greg Heilman


The origin of

It took three years for the last US slaves to learn of their freedom and over a century for the entire US to celebrate that historic day thanks to Opal Lee.

Abraham Lincoln’s 1862 Emancipation Proclamation declared slaves to be free, but three years would pass to become true.

19 June, Major General Gordon Granger read General Order No.3 to the people of Galveston, TX declaring all slaves free.

“This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves.”

Since 1866, Juneteenth festivities have been held across the US that included a public reading of Lincoln’s declaration.

Originally, Juneteenth commemorations also included a prayer service, a feast, games, rodeos and dances.

It would take 165 years though until Juneteenth would become a US federal holiday, recognized in all 50 states and DC.

The road to becoming a federal holiday once again started in Texas with Opal Lee Flakes going out for a walk.

Born in Marshall, Texas in 1926, her family home was torched by a mob of several hundred racists. She was 10 years old.

Always deeply involved in civil rights and the preservation of local African American history at 89 she decided “to do something”.

On 19 June 2016 the ‘Grandmother of Juneteenth’ set off on a 1400-mile walk from Fort Worth to DC to draw attention to the day.

On 17 June 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law the Congressional Act declaring Juneteenth an official federal holiday.

"I'm hoping that Juneteenth will not just be about festivals but that it will be about uplifting each other," Dr Opal Lee.

Which state was the first to recognize Juneteenth? Is it a paid holiday for workers?