In the wake of 2020’s racial reckoning over the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, the celebration of Juneteenth spread outside the African American community.
Juneteenth, a portmanteau of June and 19th, commemorates June 19, 1865 — the date when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3, informing the Galveston, Texas, community that President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed enslaved African Americans in rebel states. It’s also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day.
A year later, Juneteenth comes as Congress struggles to pass sweeping legislation that would protect the rights of voters of color and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which bolsters police accountability.
The day also drops into a culture war, as state legislatures attempt to ban school discussions of the long-lasting effects of slavery, systemic racism and critical race theory.
A decades-long push to make the day a federal holiday has finally succeeded: On Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill to make it so. The legislation passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives Wednesday. President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act on Thursday.