US: Juneteenth is now a national holiday. What's next?

Juneteenth and 2021 celebrations: What to know about the holiday

  Juneteenth and 2021 celebrations: What to know about the holiday Juneteenth, an annual holiday celebrated on June 19 to commemorate the Emancipation Proclamation, will be celebrated in person this year.While Juneteenth celebrates the Emancipation Proclamation, which only freed slaves in the South, the 13th Amendment is what officially ended slavery in the U.S.

Juneteenth Is a National Holiday Now . Can It Still Be Black? Illustration by Arsh Raziuddin, The New York Times; The Portal to Texas History Austin History Center, Austin Public Library. What Juneteenth and other Emancipation days commemorate is both the promise of freedom and its delay. For June 19, 1865, doesn’t mark the day enslaved African Americans were set free in the United States but the day the news of Emancipation reached them in Texas, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

What is Juneteenth ? Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas — two months after the Confederacy had surrendered. “It’ s great, but it’ s not enough,” said Gwen Grant, president and CEO of the Urban League of Kansas City. Grant said she was delighted by the quick vote this week by Congress to make Juneteenth a national holiday because “it' s been a long time coming.” But she added that “we need Congress to protect voting rights, and that needs to happen right now so we don't regress any further.

Now that Juneteenth has been recognized as a national holiday to commemorate the end of slavery in the U.S., just ahead of Saturday's June 19 anniversary, advocates are weighing in on how Americans should mark the occasion and what the day should mean to the country going forward.

  Juneteenth is now a national holiday. What's next? © John Minchillo/AP, FILE

"Juneteenth is not a Black thing, and it's not a Texas thing," Ms. Opal Lee, whom President Joe Biden called the "grandmother of the movement" to make Juneteenth a holiday, told ABC News' "GMA3: What You Need to Know Friday.

Lee walked from her home in Fort Worth to Washington five years ago at age 89 to raise awareness of the holiday and said she was "ecstatic" and "overjoyed" to witness Biden sign the bill and make it official on Thursday.

How an annual pageant became a beloved Juneteenth celebration in Texas and beyond

  How an annual pageant became a beloved Juneteenth celebration in Texas and beyond For its participants, Miss Juneteenth is more than a beauty pageant. It's a celebration of joy, a remembrance of pain and an honoring of Black girlhood.“I saw my friends posting about it on Snapchat in 10th grade saying ‘Happy Juneteenth!’” Maku said. “That’s how I found out it was even a thing. Then I started doing my research.

So what is Juneteenth , how did it become a holiday and what do people do to celebrate it? Already 49 states and Washington DC formally recognise Juneteenth as a state or ceremonial holiday . South Dakota is the last remaining state. When he was senator of Illinois, Barack Obama co-sponsored legislation to make Juneteenth a national holiday , but the law was never passed - even after he became president.

“Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments,” Biden said as he signed the bill establishing a holiday marking the end of slavery. Acting with unexpected speed, Congress passed legislation this week to make Juneteenth (June 19), the date associated with the end of slavery, a federal holiday . The Senate approved the bill on Tuesday and it overwhelmingly passed the House the next night. President Biden signed it into law on Thursday afternoon.

Joe Biden et al. standing in front of a crowd: Ninety-four-year-old activist and retired educator Opal Lee, known as the Grandmother of Juneteenth, speaks with President Biden after he signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law at the White House, June 17, 2021, in Washington. © Drew Angerer/Getty Images Ninety-four-year-old activist and retired educator Opal Lee, known as the Grandmother of Juneteenth, speaks with President Biden after he signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law at the White House, June 17, 2021, in Washington.

"I was so happy I could have done a holy dance," she said.

MORE: Meet Opal Lee, the 'grandmother of the movement' to make Juneteenth a federal holiday

But she doesn't just walk the walk.

"I just know that the time has come for us to work together to dispel the disparities we have -- and disparities we do have."

a group of people looking at each other: Opal Lee is recognized during an event to mark the passage of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, in the East Room of the White House, June 17, 2021. © Evan Vucci/AP Opal Lee is recognized during an event to mark the passage of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, in the East Room of the White House, June 17, 2021.

Lee and advocates say Juneteenth's elevation to a federal holiday now is an opportunity for all Americans -- not just African Americans -- to celebrate freedom and better understand the institution of slavery.

'Grandmother of Juneteenth' celebrates federal holiday -- but there is more work to do. Here's how you can help

  'Grandmother of Juneteenth' celebrates federal holiday -- but there is more work to do. Here's how you can help Before Juneteenth became an official federal holiday, 94-year-old Opal Lee was on a mission. © courtesy Larry Don Miller Jr Activist Opal Lee is at the center of Juneteenth becoming a national holiday. Known as the "Grandmother of Juneteenth," her mission pushed the day to become federally recognized. "I'm not just going to sit and rock, you know?" the determined "Grandmother of Juneteenth" told CNN. "The Lord is going to have to catch me.

Here' s what you should know about the emancipation celebration that dates to 1865. In 1872, a group of former Texas slaves collected more than 0 to buy 10 acres of open land, near what is now Houston, to use for annual Juneteenth celebrations. Is Juneteenth a national holiday ?

“Today we consecrate Juneteenth for what it ought to be, what it must be, a national holiday ,” Biden said in the East Room. At the ceremony, Biden called for passage of voting rights legislation, expected to come before the Senate next week, and also highlighted other parts of his agenda. As he has many times before, he also urged Americans to get vaccinated. Joining Biden at the ceremony was Opal Lee, 94, the activist who is known as the “grandmother of the movement to make Juneteenth a federal holiday .” He described how, on Juneteenth 1939, when Lee was 12 years old, a white mob torched

Watch "Juneteenth: Together We Triumph — A Soul of a Nation Special Event" on FRIDAY at 9 p.m. ET and next day on Hulu.

"It's a subject that makes some people uncomfortable and ashamed, but it is a part of who we were and a part of what helped us become the great nation that we are," Daina Ramey Berry, chair of the history department at the University of Texas at Austin, told ABC News.

"That's the beauty of this holiday," she added. "There's so much room here for us to grow and understand more about American history."

MORE: Biden signs bill making Juneteenth, marking end of slavery, a federal holiday

Federal workers and officials in Washington are already enjoying an unexpected Friday off -- as states, localities and groups all over the country mark the occasion on Saturday's 156th anniversary. Lee is continuing her campaign by walking 2.5 miles, she says, to represent the two and a half years slaves in Texas didn't know they were free -- the origin story of Juneteenth.

Black Americans laud Juneteenth holiday, say more work ahead

  Black Americans laud Juneteenth holiday, say more work ahead WASHINGTON (AP) — Black Americans rejoiced Thursday after President Joe Biden made Juneteenth a federal holiday, but some said that, while they appreciated the recognition at a time of racial reckoning in America, more is needed to change policies that disadvantage too many of their brethren. “It’s great, but it’s not enough,” said Gwen Grant, president and CEO of the Urban League of Kansas City. Grant said she was delighted by the quick vote this week by Congress to make Juneteenth a national holiday because “it's been a long time coming.”But she added that “we need Congress to protect voting rights, and that needs to happen right now so we don't regress any further.

That depends on what happens next with the bill, which has gone on to President Joe Biden for signature. Biden is expected to sign the bill, but it’ s unclear as of yet whether he will do so by this year’ s Juneteenth celebration (which falls in just two days). While Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the U. S ., the holiday ’ s history is a bit more complex; Juneteenth is specifically devoted to honoring the memory of June 19, 1865, when Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved Black locals that they had officially been freed (two years after the Emancipation

In this June 19, 2020, file photo, protesters chant as they march after a Juneteenth rally at the Brooklyn Museum, in Brooklyn, N.Y. © John Minchillo/AP, FILE In this June 19, 2020, file photo, protesters chant as they march after a Juneteenth rally at the Brooklyn Museum, in Brooklyn, N.Y.

"When people understand what actually happened, they can digest it and decide that this doesn't have to happen again," Lee said.

What is Juneteenth, and what's the significance of its new distinction?

For generations for African Americans, Juneteenth -- also known as Freedom Day, Liberation Day and Emancipation Day -- has been a day to celebrate freedom with parades and festivities similar to those on the Fourth of July. During the Jim Crow era, the Black community had to hold these celebrations in private, but they gained new momentum in recent history.

Juneteenth marks the day -- June 19, 1865, when enslaved Americans in Galveston, Texas, learned they were free -- two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation took effect and two months after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee formally surrendered.

MORE: Haven't heard of Juneteenth? Here's what you need to know

Video: What is Juneteenth? (ABC News)

Black Americans laud Juneteenth holiday, say more work ahead

  Black Americans laud Juneteenth holiday, say more work ahead WASHINGTON (AP) — Black Americans rejoiced Thursday after President Joe Biden made Juneteenth a federal holiday, but some said that, while they appreciated the recognition at a time of racial reckoning in America, more is needed to change policies that disadvantage too many of their brethren. © Provided by Associated Press President Joe Biden points to Opal Lee after signing the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Washington. From left, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif, Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., Opal Lee, Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn.

Vice President Kamala Harris said Thursday that its designation as a national holiday -- joining 10 annual paid federal holidays in the U.S. -- is significant in that "these are days when we, as a nation, have decided to stop and take stock, and often to acknowledge our history."

Joe Biden, Kamala Harris posing for the camera: President Joe Biden listens as Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during an event to mark the passage of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, in the East Room of the White House, June 17, 2021. © Evan Vucci/AP President Joe Biden listens as Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during an event to mark the passage of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, in the East Room of the White House, June 17, 2021.

According to a Gallup poll last month, more than two in three Black Americans (69%) say they have a lot or some knowledge about Juneteenth, compared with 40% of Hispanics and 31% of white Americans.

Not often in highlighted in the nation's history books -- if there at all -- it's a day not everyone has heard of.

Advocates hope that will now change.

What's next for celebrating the holiday?

Berry, an expert in African American history, said just as educators did with Martin Luther King Jr. Day when it became a federal holiday in 1983, lesson plans can be built around Juneteenth. Its new distinction as a national holiday may allow historians new grants and to uncover new facts about the 250,000 final enslaved Americans in Texas, she noted.

Under Trump, Juneteenth was marred by controversy — with Biden, it's a federal holiday

  Under Trump, Juneteenth was marred by controversy — with Biden, it's a federal holiday The contrast between former President Donald Trump's final Juneteenth in the White House and the lead-up to President Joe Biden's first is stark.A diverse crowd of lawmakers, activists and community leaders — including pop icon Usher, with whom many photos were taken — gathered in the East Room to witness President Joe Biden sign into law a new federal holiday: Juneteenth, which on June 19 commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

"Why don't we learn from their stories, learn about their experiences from slavery, understand what freedom meant to them?" Berry said of those still enslaved after the war. "I think that would go a long way in understanding what freedom means for us today."

MORE: Video: Biden signs bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

Although the distinction comes during a debate over how to teach the foundations of slavery and its lasting impacts, the same Gallup poll from May found that Americans were actually more supportive of teaching the history of Juneteenth in schools than of making it a federal holiday. Nearly half of respondents said Juneteenth should be added to public schools' history curriculum whereas 35% of Americans said last month it should be a national holiday.

a group of people sitting at a table: A drawing depicts Abraham Lincoln at the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862. © Hulton Archive/Getty Images, FILE A drawing depicts Abraham Lincoln at the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862.

Though experts have argued its significance in state legislatures for decades, even succeeding in getting Juneteenth recognized as a holiday everywhere but South Dakota, it took Congress just two days to pass the legislation once one Republican senator dropped his opposition. The bill then passed the Senate by unanimous consent on Wednesday before passing the House Thursday night in a 415-14 vote, with all opposition coming from GOP members.

MORE: Congress passes legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday

Despite the bipartisan victory, advocates said the country is still far from healing the wounds from America's "original sin."

Juneteenth, recalling end of slavery, is marked across US

  Juneteenth, recalling end of slavery, is marked across US Parades, picnics and lessons in history marked Juneteenth celebrations Saturday in the U.S., a day that carried even more significance after Congress and President Joe Biden created a federal holiday to commemorate the end of slavery. A new national holiday was “really awesome. It’s starting to recognize the African American experience,” said Detroit artist Hubert Massey, 63. “But we still have a long way to go.” In Detroit, which is 80% Black, students from University Prep Art & Design High School dodged rain to repaint Massey's block-long message, “Power to the People,” which was created last year on downtown Woodward Avenue.

The president on Thursday also said Juneteenth is a reminder to "rededicate ourselves to action." He pointed to voting rights and what he called the "assault" by Republicans to restrict Black voters.

"We can't rest until the promise of equality is fulfilled for every one of us in every corner of this nation. That, to me, is the meaning of Juneteenth," Biden said.

Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, echoed that message the same day and tied in the issue of D.C. statehood, saying "color me skeptical," when asked about Congress taking such swift action on the national holiday while, she said, failing to address other policy issues.

"Because I don't want anybody," she said, "to think that it relieves them of their obligation to protect voting rights in this country, which are under attack. D.C. statehood is a voting rights issue is a civil rights issue of our time."

MORE: House committee advances reparations bill: 'We're giving America the opportunity for redemption'

Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, and other advocates, point to passing legislation like H.R. 40, a bill that specifically calls for the creation of a commission to study reparations, as a way to fulfill that promise. It passed out of House committee for the first time earlier this year, but is still waiting a full floor vote.

"Now that we've gotten the recognition, we can build off that momentum for reparations," said Deborah Evans, communications director with the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation.

MORE: What America owes: How reparations would look and who would pay

There's also the glaring absence, Evans said, of national policing reform more than a year after the killing of George Floyd -- which helped elevate Juneteenth as a national holiday. Companies, including Nike and Twitter, signed on to make Juneteenth a paid day off for the first time last year during what was called a nationwide reckoning on race.

Ron Johnson visited Milwaukee's Juneteenth Day celebration. It didn't go well.

  Ron Johnson visited Milwaukee's Juneteenth Day celebration. It didn't go well. Last year, the Wisconsin Republican blocked legislation to make Juneteenth a national holiday. On Tuesday, he relented, saying, "While it still seems strange that having taxpayers provide federal employees paid time off is now required to celebrate the end of slavery, it is clear that there is no appetite in Congress to further discuss the matter." © Ebony Cox / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel A large crowd begins to form and some start to boo Sen. Ron Johnson as he makes a speech during the Juneteenth Day celebration on Saturday, June 19, 2021, in Milwaukee.

An opportunity to educate all Americans

Beyond policy, advocates hope Juneteenth's new distinction is an opportunity to educate -- and celebrate.

Anthony Brown, a social studies professor who teaches on race matters at the University of Texas, said he hopes Juneteenth being recognized as a national holiday will provide a platform for teachers and community educators to have a space to discuss the history so that people can connect freedom in 1865 to freedom in 2021.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: People pray together during a Juneteenth event at Centennial Olympic Park on June 19, 2020, in Atlanta. © Joe Raedle/Getty Images, FILE People pray together during a Juneteenth event at Centennial Olympic Park on June 19, 2020, in Atlanta.

"If you took a picture of what kinds of things we do as Americans during the Fourth of July, you'll see the same kinds of activities at a Juneteenth celebration," he told ABC News. "I think it's a tremendous opportunity for unity. To not know its full history would be a travesty. And nothing good comes from when you don't know your neighbor."

MORE: Congress passes legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday

Evans, who fought for three decades to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, also said it allows a chance to go back and correct history. She said her attention now is to research and educate others on the real history of Juneteenth -- like that 9,000 Black Union troops helped free the final 250,000 slaves in Galveston, she said, to which Berry agreed, though their stories are often forgotten.

"We want to train not only the children but we've got to go back and train the children's first teachers, their parents, because many do not know about Juneteenth," she said

a group of people on a stage: Members of the Sankofa Dance & Drum Team perform at Point State Park for the Western Pennsylvania Juneteenth Celebration on June 18, 2021, in Pittsburgh, Pa. © Sarah Simpson/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP Members of the Sankofa Dance & Drum Team perform at Point State Park for the Western Pennsylvania Juneteenth Celebration on June 18, 2021, in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Berry also emphasized that in the earliest celebrations of Juneteenth, education was essential to the festivities -- and suggested that stay central to celebrations moving forward.

"While people are celebrating different foods, I just hope that the moment of reflection is also part of this holiday," she said. "It was always about education and making sure that everybody understood what they had experienced during slavery. So this is a moment for us to celebrate freedom, but also to understand and recognize the history."

MORE: The All-New "Juneteenth: Together We Triumph" Special Premieres TONIGHT | ABC Updates

She said, as did most advocates, that Juneteenth becoming a holiday doesn't erase racial disparities in the U.S., but allows a better opportunity to address them.

"It doesn't mean that this settles everything and it doesn't mean that we don't have issues to still address, it does. We have disparities," Berry said. "But by bringing this to a federal holiday, to celebrate freedom, allows us an opportunity to address the disparities and inequalities that we have that are still resonant in this country."

the tower of the building: The flag marking the Juneteenth holiday flies over the Wisconsin state Capitol after being raised on June 18, 2021, in Madison, Wis. © Scott Bauer/AP The flag marking the Juneteenth holiday flies over the Wisconsin state Capitol after being raised on June 18, 2021, in Madison, Wis.

Ron Johnson visited Milwaukee's Juneteenth Day celebration. It didn't go well. .
Last year, the Wisconsin Republican blocked legislation to make Juneteenth a national holiday. On Tuesday, he relented, saying, "While it still seems strange that having taxpayers provide federal employees paid time off is now required to celebrate the end of slavery, it is clear that there is no appetite in Congress to further discuss the matter." © Ebony Cox / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel A large crowd begins to form and some start to boo Sen. Ron Johnson as he makes a speech during the Juneteenth Day celebration on Saturday, June 19, 2021, in Milwaukee.

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