(Reuters) – Juneteenth is the newest federal holiday and commemorates the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans. U.S. President Joe Biden signed the bill creating the holiday in 2021.
Juneteenth, long a regional holiday in the U.S. South, rose in prominence following protests in 2020 over police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and other African Americans.
WHAT IS JUNETEENTH?
Juneteenth, a combination of the words June and 19th, is also known as Emancipation Day. It commemorates the day in 1865, after the Confederate states surrendered to end the Civil War, when a Union general arrived in Texas to inform a group of enslaved African Americans of their freedom under President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.
In 1980, Texas officially declared it a holiday. This year, at least 28 states and the District of Columbia will legally recognize Juneteenth and give state workers a paid day off, according to the Pew Research Center.
Although in part a celebration, the day is also observed solemnly to honor those who suffered during slavery in the United States with the arrival of the first captive Africans over 400 years ago.
WHAT IS SIGNIFICANT THIS YEAR?
Connecticut, Minnesota, Nevada and Tennessee have made Juneteenth a permanent public holiday for the first time this year, according to the Pew Research Center. In Alabama and West Virginia, Juneteenth has been authorized as a state holiday for this year by a governor’s proclamation. The state legislatures would need to pass a bill to make it a permanent public holiday.
Race remains a sensitive issue in America.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide by the end of this month the fate of race-conscious collegiate admission policies.
The pending ruling could end affirmative action programs that have been used by many U.S. colleges and universities for decades to increase their numbers of Black, Hispanic and other underrepresented minority students.
HOW ARE PEOPLE MARKING THE DAY?
People are marking the 158th anniversary of the holiday with festive meals and gatherings. Traditionally, celebrations have included parades and marches, many of which were held on Sunday.
People are also celebrating the holiday by organizing for civil rights, reading books about African American heritage and history, attending festivals and musical performances, and dining at Black-owned restaurants.
(Compiled by Aurora Ellis; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)