Juneteenth History Juneteenth, also called Freedom Day and Emancipation Day, celebrates the abolition of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers arrived in Texas to deliver news that President Lincoln has issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the enslaved. Although Lincoln's Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863, it took nearly two and half years for word to travel from Washington to Texas. By then, Texas had amassed more than 250,000 slaves. Since 1865, Juneteenth has been informally celebrated throughout the country however in 1980, Texas became the first state to recognize it as an official holiday. Shortly thereafter, other states also proclaimed the holiday. Today, Juneteenth is a celebration of African-American freedom, heritage and culture observed through songs, communal cookouts and parades.