June 19 marks an important day in America: Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery.
It's an official holiday in Texas, but that's not the case all over the country. For many in the African American community, it's a day of celebration marked by cookouts, concerts and various other events.
With Black Lives Matter protests continuing across the world and issues of racism brought to the fore, Juneteenth feels more vital than ever. Here's everything you need to know…
Juneteenth is otherwise known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day. Even though the Emancipation Proclamation issued by Abraham Lincoln freed slaves in January 1863, many owners in Confederate states kept their slaves captive after this.
June 19 is the day in 1865 when Major General Gordon Granger – a Union soldier – announced the end of the Civil War in Galveston, Texas. He announced the General Order No 3 which said: "The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves."
This was significant because Texas was arguably the heartland of the Confederacy, and it officially freed the state's 250,000 slaves.
People have the day off work if they live in Texas or work for companies like Twitter and Nike, but this isn't the case all over the country.
This year, more states are moving towards making it an official holiday though. A few days ago musician Pharrell helped the Virginia government announce plans to make Juneteenth official, giving executive branch employees the day off and proposing new legislation to make it a permanent state holiday. This joins growing calls for it to be made a national public holiday.
Pharrell isn't the only famous figure advocating for Freedom Day to be a national holiday – Taylor Swift has also joined the chorus.
Juneteenth comes as Black Lives Matter protests are still happening all over the country, sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. Floyd's death catalysed conversations about systemic racism in the US, and Juneteenth will no doubt carry these on and pose more questions about whether statues of Confederate leaders should still be standing.
President Donald Trump was recently criticised for organising a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma for June 19 – where one of the worst incidences of racist violence happened in 1921 on what was known as the Black Wall Street. In response to the backlash, he changed the event to June 20.
Due to the pandemic, many of the regular events, talks and marches will be digital or socially distanced. Despite the restrictions, Juneteenth feels more important and timely than ever, and celebrations of the day will surely reflect that.