What Is Juneteenth? The African-American Celebration of Emancipation Explained

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You might notice it on your calendar this month: a June 19 holiday called Juneteenth.

But what is Juneteenth? 

It began as a holiday in Texas during which black Americans commemorate the emancipation of slaves following the Confederates Army's loss in the Civil War. 

Though Robert E. Lee surrendered months earlier, in April 1865, those enslaved in Texas were so far from the battlefield they didn't learn the news until June.

As Fordham University professor Lori Brooks explains, when the major general of the Union Army, Gordon Granger, arrived in Texas with the news, it was June 18.

The following day, Granger announced the emancipation of African-American slaves.

"The formerly enslaved African-Americans then turned that into a holiday," Brooks told InsideEdition.com. "And, of course, Juneteenth is a combination of the month of June and the date, the 19th."

Brooks explains that Juneteenth is actually one of many emancipation celebrations that African-Americans have had over the years.

One reason Juneteenth became a national celebration is because of the Poor People’s March in 1968, Brooks said. 

"The Poor People’s March was sort of the second arm of the Civil Rights movement," Brooks said. "Whereas the Civil Rights movement was fighting for access for African Americans to American institutions and to social spaces and also the demand for dignity and rights, it eventually moved into a struggle against poverty, which was a way to incorporate African-Americans who lived in the urban north into the Civil Rights movement."

Brooks said Juneteenth is becoming increasingly popular among African-Americans, including those who did not necessarily grow up with it.

"It’s especially important for African American families who want to find a holiday to teach their children about the history of slavery and emancipation," Brooks said.


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