June 19 is the date on which the last African Americans were informed they were freed from slavery 155 years ago.
The Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in southern states in 1863, but the last enslaved people, located in the southcentral U.S. state of Texas, did not get word of their freedom until 1865, when Union soldiers arrived in the city of Galveston.
The next year, former slaves began celebrating in Galveston what is called Juneteenth, a melding of “June” and “19th.” The celebrations eventually spread to other U.S. states and other countries such as Ghana, South Korea and Israel.
Some U.S. states, including Virginia and New York, have designated Juneteenth as paid holidays for state workers. Some corporations have also given employees the day off.
Groups have scaled back traditional parades and concerts across the U.S. this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, favoring, instead, socially distanced and virtual observances.
Other groups are engaging in peaceful protests, voter registration drives and campaigns to promote black-owned businesses.
U.S. President Donald Trump said in a statement Friday Juneteenth “is both a remembrance of a blight on our history and a celebration of our Nation’s unsurpassed ability to triumph over darkness.”