Story at a glance
- Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19, the day in 1865 when the remaining enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, were informed of their freedom by the Emancipation Proclamation issued two years earlier.
- President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law last June amid a continued racial reckoning following the death of George Floyd.
- The last federal holiday established by Congress was Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The U.S. will commemorate on Sunday the newest federal holiday and pivotal piece of history marking the date slavery ended in America.
Juneteenth, the first holiday established by Congress since 1983, is celebrated on June 19, the day in 1865 when the remaining enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, were informed of their freedom by the Emancipation Proclamation issued two years earlier by Abraham Lincoln.
President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law last June amid a continued racial reckoning following the death of George Floyd. The federal holiday, enacted on June 17, 2021, was already recognized by most states.
The last federal holiday established by Congress was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, honoring the iconic Civil Rights leader.
“Juneteenth marks both the long, hard night of slavery and subjugation, and a promise of a brighter morning to come. This is a day of profound — in my view — profound weight and profound power,” Biden said last year, adding it is a day Americans remember the “moral stain” of slavery.
“The truth is, it’s not — simply not enough just to commemorate Juneteenth,” Biden continued. “After all, the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans didn’t mark the end of America’s work to deliver on the promise of equality; it only marked the beginning.”
Knowledge of Juneteenth has only grown in the U.S. since it was made a federal holiday, recent polling shows. A Gallup survey released yesterday revealed that 88 percent of respondents knew at least a little about the significance of the day.
Additionally, a majority of those surveyed by Gallup believe the history of Juneteenth should be taught in schools, reflecting a substantial increase since last year.
There are a host of celebrations across the U.S. this weekend, including in Washington, D.C. where The Juneteenth Foundation kicked off four days of events for its Freedom Festival on Thursday.
The weekend events are expected to feature celebrity guests such as rappers T.I., Rick Ross and Big Sean, musicians Maxwell and Keri Hilson, and former NFL quarterback Michael Vick.
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Juneteenth also serves as a day when Americans might remember persistent inequities experienced by the Black community that were again laid bare by the coronavirus pandemic. People in the D.C. area may register to screen “The Color of Care” at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The film “chronicles how Black Americans have been subjected to systematically substandard healthcare,” according to the museum.
Those unable to attend larger events can also celebrate in other ways. Interested parties might visit Juneteenth.com to read a deeper history of how the day of freedom has evolved over generations. For those seeking to make an immediate impact, the site recommends supporting local, Black-owned businesses.
“These grassroots, ground-level contributions make a daily impact on work, quality of life, and growth in the community,” the site read. “Make a daily, weekly, and yearly conscious effort to plant your economic seeds and watch them grow.”
Americans could also support Black communities year around as the nation moves closer toward equality, activists say.
“Support Black people before Juneteenth so it won’t look like a performance,” activist and multimedia journalist Lance Cooper tweeted.
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