On June 19, 1865, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and more than two months after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at the Appomattox Court House to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, enslaved people in Galveston finally learned from Union soldiers that they had been freed.

Since then, Juneteenth has been a day of celebration and reflection for Black Texans, and later, for millions of Black Americans across the nation. Before Congress passed a law on June 16, 2021, making June 19 a federal holiday , 48 states, the District of Columbia and many other cities had already made it a holiday. With President Joe Biden’s signature on June 17, the entire nation could celebrate this bittersweet moment in history with its deep Texas roots.

Sign up for The Brief , our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.