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Since 1776, Americans have celebrated Independence Day on the Fourth of July to commemorate the 13 American colonies that were freed from Britain. But how can a country celebrate its independence when a group of its people were still enslaved?

The death of George Floyd, among other police brutality incidents, ignited a renewed interest in Juneteenth. In 2020, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia signed an executive order declaring Juneteenth a holiday.

As of today, June 17, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth bill, creating the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was signed in 1983.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks beside U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris before signing the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, June 17, 2021. Photographer: Oliver Contreras/Sipa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

What does this mean?

On Wednesday (June 16), by a vote of 415 to 14, the House approved the bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. Since Juneteenth falls on a Saturday this year, Federal workers will observe Juneteenth on Friday.

What is Juneteenth?

Also known as Jubilee and Emancipation Day, June 19, 1865, was the day enslaved African-Americans in Galveston, Texas were freed; two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. Since the late 1800s, Juneteenth has become an annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery.

How is it celebrated?

Former slaves would travel to Galveston each year to celebrate Juneteenth, a tradition that spanned to other states. According to the Texas State Historical Association, celebrations would involve helping newly freed African-Americans learn about their voting rights.

It wasn’t until 1872 when a group of African-American ministers and businessmen in Houston purchased 10 acres of land to create Emancipation Park.

In 2020, millions of Americans celebrated Juneteenth by taking to the streets and protesting on behalf of the Black Lives Matter movement in response to the deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and more Black Americans who lost their lives at the hands of police brutality.

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