June 13, 2023


Juneteenth Independence Day will be celebrated on Monday, June 19. The newest federal holiday commemorates the day when the last enslaved African Americans in the United States were freed following the conclusion of the Civil War. The holiday gets its name, “Juneteenth,” as a form of verbal shorthand for June 19.

Originally called Emancipation Day, Juneteenth was first recognized as a holiday by Texas in 1980. Over the past four decades many other states began to recognize the holiday. On June 17, 2021, President Joseph Biden signed into law the Juneteenth National Independence Act, which established June 19 as a federal holiday.

Juneteenth may hold a special meaning for some Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) employees, especially those who are descendants of enslaved African Americans.  Employees can use personal PTO to cover their time away and should seek approval from their supervisor. As such, supervisors should prepare for and prioritize these PTO requests.

Through its ongoing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, beginning this year, VUMC added Martin Luther King Day as its newest paid holiday. On Jan. 16, offices were closed for employees to celebrate Dr. King through participation in community events or acts of service.

VUMC’s other paid holidays are New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The History of Juneteenth

On January 1, 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. It granted freedom to all persons held as slaves in 10 Confederate-controlled states. However, for the most part, the order was not enforced until Union soldiers were able to advance into Confederate held areas as the war was ending in 1865.

On June 19, 1865, the U.S. Army delivered to the people of Galveston, Texas, General Order No. 3, which stated that all slaves were free, freeing the last slaves remaining in the U.S. through the order. Slavery was formally abolished in the U.S. on Dec. 6, 1865, with the ratification of the 13th Amendment.

For more information on Juneteenth, and some ideas about ways to observe the holiday, click here: Juneteenth_2023