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Featured Photograph: Juneteenth band. Photograph by Grace Murray Stephenson of celebrations in Eastwoods Park, Austin, 1900. (Source: Mrs. Charles Stephenson (Grace Murray), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Juneteenth National Independence Day falls on Sunday, June 19, 2022, this year. It is a federal holiday with most federal employees having Monday, the 20th, as a day off of work.

Juneteenth is the newest Federal holiday, signed into law on June 17, 2021, by President Joe Biden to commemorate the end of slavery in the U.S. following the conclusion of the Civil War.

Although a new Federal holiday, the day of Juneteenth (June 19th) has been celebrated annually around the country since 1866, one year after Union General George Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas (on June 19, 1865) and informed the enslaved African Americans that the Union had won the Civil War. He told them they were now free, and had been free since the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863.  

Texas was the first state to codify the date of June 19th  into law in 1980 and was the only state to have the day as a paid holiday for state employees in 2020. Since then, at least eight other states –New York, Maine, Louisiana, Virginia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Washington and Illinois — have followed, according to the Associated Press.

In Louisiana Juneteenth is now also a state holiday that went into effect in 2021 when Governor John Bel Edwards signed Act 128, designating the third Saturday in June as Juneteenth Day throughout the state. Beginning this year, all state offices will be closed the Friday before that Saturday. That day off for state employees this year falls on Friday, June 17th.

Opelousas has been celebrating Juneteenth for much longer, since 1985. The celebration has grown and is now a major event in other St. Landry Parish communities as well.

This year celebrations are scheduled on Saturday, June 18th in Opelousas and Grand Coteau. Visit the St. Landry Now Community Calendar for information on those Juneteenth activities. Click here to view that calendar: