A graphic that reads 'what is Juneteenth' with the date '6/19' also shown.

For the first time in its history, Juneteenth will be celebrated as an official City holiday in Iowa City.

Though the holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States has been celebrated for decades in Iowa City and beyond, the City declared Juneteenth an official City holiday in late 2020, replacing Presidents' Day.

The official holiday is celebrated annually on June 19. Since that date falls on a Saturday this year, the City will observe the holiday on Friday, June 18, when City Hall and other facilities will be closed. The City will announce all closures and impacts of the Juneteenth holiday in early June.

The History of Juneteenth

Juneteenth is a celebration of the day in June 19, 1865, when US troops reached Galveston Bay, Texas, and declared that the 250,000 slaves in the state were free, according to the National Museum of African American History & Culture. This took place 900 days after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and 71 days after the Civil War had ended.

The name Juneteenth came from those newly freed people from Texas, where early celebrations of the holiday were largely based. The Great Migration led to many millions of African Americans moving from all across the country in the early 20th century, which helped the holiday take root across nationwide, according to historian Henry Louis Gates Jr

Texas would become the first state to declare Juneteenth a state holiday in 1979, more than 100 years after its first celebration. Over the next few decades, the holiday would become recognized by just about every US state. 

2021 Juneteenth events in Iowa City

A series of events will be held in Iowa City and throughout the area to celebrate Juneteenth. Visit icgov.org/Juneteenth2021 for a complete list. Some highlights include:

Date of publication

Wednesday, May 26, 2021