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Every year leading up to June 19 you probably hear the word "Juneteenth" being used. You may know it has something to do with slavery, and you might even have the day off of work. But do you really know the history and importance of the day? Do you know why you have the day off of work and how you can make that free time even more meaningful? Here are 5 things you may not know about Juneteenth that will help you understand why we celebrate this historic day.

1. Juneteenth is a federal American holiday, celebrated each year on June 19 to commemorate the emancipation of the last remaining African American slaves in Confederacy, meaning the official end of slavery.

2. The order to end slavery came from Major General Gordon Granger. In June of 1865, Union soldiers landed in Galveston, TX, lead by Granger, with news that the Civil War had officially ended. What's shocking about this is that it came two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation (which ended slavery on paper), which went into effect on January 1, 1863. Why did it take so long, you ask? We had the same question. It was supposedly a matter of manpower (though there are a lot of other unfounded yet interesting reasons for the delay). There were very few Union troops in Texas, therefore making it significantly harder to enforce the new executive order.

For your reference, here is what the famous order 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, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.” —General Orders, Number 3; Headquarters District of Texas, Galveston, June 19, 1865

3. Juneteenth is also known as Emancipation Day, Juneteenth Independence Day and Black Independence Day.

4. In 1979, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday, and today, celebrations are held all over the country with 45 of the 50 states considering it an official holiday. Celebrations historically include lots of food and barbecuing, and now feature parades, rodeos, and festivals. Prayer and religious services are also a huge part of the celebrations, as well as educational events and of course, family gatherings. From the official Juneteenth website, it notes that "Juneteenth today, celebrates African American freedom and achievement while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures."  

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