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The roots of Juneteenth

A woman participates in a Juneteenth parade in Philadelphia in 2018.

Juneteenth, the nation’s newest federal holiday, is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States.

It is rooted in events that took place in Texas in 1865.

President Abraham Lincoln had declared enslaved persons free as of Jan. 1, 1863, but enforcement of his Emancipation Proclamation relied heavily on the power and presence of the Union army.

However, Texas, the westernmost state in the Confederacy, did not have any major battles during the Civil War and Union troops did not have a strong presence there. The resulting vacuum allowed slavery to continue for years after the proclamation.

On June 19, 1865, 2,000 federal troops finally arrived in Galveston Bay and declared enslaved persons free by executive decree.

In 1866, the first celebration of Juneteenth was held in Texas. What began as church picnics and prayer meetings grew into barbecues, speeches and festivals.

The holiday’s celebrants brought “Juneteenth” — a blend of “June” and “nineteenth” — to other states as they moved throughout the nation.

Texas made Juneteenth a state holiday in 1980, and most states followed suit in subsequent years.

Juneteenth has been observed in other countries, too, including France, Ghana, Israel, South Korea and Taiwan.

In 2021, President Joe Biden signed the law establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday.

Because June 19 falls on a Sunday in 2022, the holiday will be observed on Monday, June 20.

This year will mark the Postal Service’s first observance of Juneteenth.

USPS recognizes that diversity, equity and inclusion are important business imperatives that make the organization stronger.

An important part of creating an inclusive workplace is increasing awareness of — and appreciation for — the different cultures and backgrounds of postal employees, which is embodied by the observation of Juneteenth.

As outlined in the Delivering for America plan, the organization strives to hire, develop and retain a workforce that represents the communities it serves.