Explainer-What is Juneteenth and how are people marking the day?

FILE PHOTO: Casius Caligula watches a band with his pit bull dogs Mephistopheles, Maximilian, Medusa and Maleficent during Juneteenth festivities at Discovery Green in Houston, Texas, U.S., June 18, 2023. REUTERS/Adrees Latif/File Photo

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.


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.

FILE PHOTO: Kyle Bowman holds his three year old daughter Mila on Father's Day during Juneteenth celebrations at Discovery Green in Houston, Texas, U.S., June 18, 2023. REUTERS/Adrees Latif/File Photo

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.


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.


FILE PHOTO: Trumpeter Crystal Howard marches down the street while playing with her band during a block party to mark Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in Texas, over two years after the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves elsewhere in the U.S., in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., June 17, 2023. REUTERS/Kevin Wurm/File Photo
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