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What is Juneteenth and why is it important in 2020?

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Posted at 5:37 PM, Jun 19, 2020

Back on June 19, 1865, the last slaves, around 250,000 people, were emancipated from the Confederacy in Texas and were granted their freedom. This day would go on to be known as Juneteenth.

In 2020, 47 of the 50 states recognize Juneteenth, with New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia signing bills this week to make Juneteenth a paid and official state holiday, according to WUSA 9.

Texas, the origin of where Juneteenth began, has recognized the holiday for the last 40 years.

Now the question may arise of why a 155-year-old holiday, little known to most, is just now appearing to be relevant for most people.

“It is important today because there are people who choose to ignore, belittle and diminish black people,” Jaelen Gilkey, a digital content producer for WFMY News, said. “It is still an issue we face today in this country and across the world. This holiday should bring light to that so those people can be forced to reflect.”

Juneteenth to Donovan Dooley, a staff writer at Deadspin, is a cause for celebration.

“For me, it is about celebrating the heritage and what it means to be black on the quest to being free and equal in this country,” Dooley said. “It means things like strength, power and resolve. It is important to signify the resilience of black people.”

Arial Robinson, the creator of “The Modern Day Black Alphabet,” said that Juneteenth means to black people what Independence Day means to many Americans.

“It is important to black people just like July 4th is important to white people. We are not enslaved anymore, and it is important that we commemorate the people who fought for us,” Robinson said.

She also said that going forward, her family will be exchanging gifts for the holiday.

“My family and I will be exchanging gifts on Juneteenth eve from black-owned businesses,” Robinson said. “We will have cookouts some days, or a seafood broil, or whatever the family decides to eat. It's just a night to celebrate our ancestors and have a good time.”