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The march from unofficial holiday to a formal day off for most federal employees started in Texas, more than a century after Union Gen. Gordon Granger issued an 1865 order freeing the remaining 250,000 or so Black people who were still enslaved in the state, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

It took until 1979 for Texas to formally recognize the holiday, after legislators approved a measure introduced by state Rep. Al Edwards (D), a veteran civil rights activist who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. Edwards introduced the bill in the first of his thirteen terms in office. …

Every president since former President Clinton’s administration has taken the opportunity to issue statements or remarks honoring the holiday. And for the last dozen years, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), who represents the same Houston area that Edwards represented in the Texas legislature, has introduced a measure in Congress to make the day the nation’s [12th] official holiday.

Other states slowly followed Texas’s lead: Florida adopted a Juneteenth holiday in 1991, Oklahoma in 1994 and Minnesota in 1996. Thirty-one states adopted the holiday between 2000 and 2009, and another 13 did so in the decade that followed.

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