Musicians at 1900 Juneteenth celebration in Austin, Texas, pose before the U.S. flag.

It took more than 200 years to end slavery. Juneteenth honors that fight

As long as slavery existed in America, people fought against it. Juneteenth remembers their battles while celebrating the first taste of freedom after the Civil War.

Thirty-five years after the end of the Civil War, a group of Black musicians pose before the U.S. flag at a Juneteenth celebration in Austin, Texas. Festivities often included picnics, parades, music, and dancing.
Image courtesy of History and Art Collection / Alamy Stock Photo

On June 17, 2021, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, making June 19 a national holiday. Juneteenth is not a new celebration; its roots go back more than a century to the end of the Civil War, when enslaved Americans in Texas learned that they were free. But Juneteenth is just one part of a story of how slavery came to an end in the United States.  

The Atlantic Slave Trade had existed for nearly a century before slavery came to the North American colonies. In 1619 the practice in the United States began with a single Portuguese slave ship in 1619. It had been intercepted by the English privateer White Lion and sailed into Point Comfort (now the Fort Monroe National Monument), near the young settlement of Jamestown in the Virginia colony.

(Stolen from Africa, enslaved people first arrived in colonial Virginia in 1619.)

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