As the country prepares to add an 11th federal holiday, many may not know what Juneteenth is and why it will be celebrated.
Gallup pollsters recently conducted a poll and found that 60% of Americans know little or nothing about the holiday, The New York Times reported.
Here are five things to know:
1. Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19.
2. Juneteenth goes by many names. It is also called Emancipation Day, Black Independence Day or Jubilee Day. It is also considered the country’s second independence day, according to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
3. Juneteenth celebrates when enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, found out the Civil War had ended. Gordon Granger, a Union general, told them on June 19, 1865, that the war between the states was over and that they were free. On Jan. 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect meaning that all enslaved people in the Confederate States were technically legally free, but because the Confederacy was not governed by the Union, they would not be free until the end of the Civil War. It took from the signing of the surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865 until June 19, that same year to get word to the westernmost section of the country -- Texas. But slavery itself was not fully abolished until the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in December 1865, The Wall Street Journal reported.
4. Juneteenth has been celebrated since the 19th century. But the holiday’s popularity has had its ups and downs. “We see spikes in Juneteenth popularity at the same time we see focus on Black life and the position of Black people in American Society,” Dr. Brenda Elaine Stevenson, a historian who specializes in African American history and the history of the southern U.S., told The New York Times. “Juneteenth has now had a rebirth in terms of people focusing on it, celebrating it, wanting to know what it is and wanting to know what it signifies; and how it relates to this long arc of racial divide and progress, or not, in our country,” Stevenson told the Times.
5. Juneteenth is the first new federal holiday since the creation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983, The Associated Press reported. The legislation passed by both the Senate and then the House of Representatives sets the name of the holiday as Juneteenth National Independence Day. But while it is a federal holiday, meaning federal employees will get the day off as they do for July Fourth, Christmas and Thanksgiving, state and local governments as well as private employers don’t have to give the day off to employees. Mercer LLC, an employer consulting firm, found that of 405 companies polled, about one third give Presidents Day off and only about 13% give Veterans Day off as a holiday, The Wall Street Journal reported. Many companies told Mercer that celebrating Juneteenth and giving it as a day off for employees shows their commitment against racism, the newspaper reported. Companies like Nike, Twitter and Spotify gave employees the day off starting last year after the murder of George Floyd.
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