Historians say on June 19, 1865, news of freedom finally reached slaves in Texas -- two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
Dr. Elliott Palmer, a curator at The African-American Cultural Complex in Raleigh, offers a brief history of the holiday.
"One must remember that the Emancipation Proclamation was written and released January 1, 1863. That was the proclamation that declared slavery illegal and freed the slaves.
"It was two years later, in 1865, that general Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas and announced to slaves that they were free. You have to remember communication was slow. Texas was probably the most remote state in the union.
"Slaves did many things. Some of them stayed on the plantation. They knew no other life to live and they had no other jobs offered, so they had to stay where they found economic security to the extent it was received.
"Many took an exodus to Kansas and got to Kansas and had this big meeting and wanted to know 'Now what are we hoping to do? We're here, we've got no jobs, no place to live.' And so that set off another kind of concern.
"But, since a large cadre of people have determined that was indeed the final vestige of freedom of slaves, many have set about setting up celebrations and organizations to revere that date: June 19, 1865."
The African-American Cultural Complex has a unique collection of artifacts, documents, displays and educational programs recognizing outstanding contributions made by African Americans.