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What You Need to Know About Juneteenth

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“(On) July 4, 1776, not everybody was free and celebrating their Independence Day. So here’s our day. And if you love us, it’ll be your day, too.”

That’s how Pharrell Williams addressed the press in his home state of Virginia in June 2020, according to The Virginian Pilot, as he appeared alongside Gov. Ralph Northam during a press conference in which the governor proposed making June 19—or Juneteenth, as it’s commonly referred to—an official legal holiday in the state. Today, it’s now a federal holiday, with President Joe Biden making the legislation official on Thursday, June 17.

With the nation examining its history of racial inequality, appeals to recognize the significance of Juneteenth more fully had been growing since last summer. In the lead-up to last year’s celebrations, a number of companies—including Nike, the National Football League, Twitter and more—have announced that the day will now be a company holiday. But for some, the history of the day Black Americans have long since celebrated as the time slavery officially ended in this country remains unclear.

Here’s everything you need to know about Juneteenth.

What Is Juneteenth?

Though the holiday is sometimes mistakenly referred to as the day slavery was abolished in America, that’s not quite it. Juneteenth commemorates the June 19, 1865 arrival of Gen. Gordon Granger and Union soldiers to Galveston, Texas to announce to the remaining enslaved African-Americans that the Civil War had ended and they were free. Granger’s appearance came some two and a half years after The Emancipation Proclamation was actually signed by President Abraham Lincoln and made official on January 1,

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