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“Juneteenth is our newest federal holiday. Celebrated on June 19, Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day and Cel-Liberation Day, has been a federal holiday for the last two years. But in some states and communities, it has been celebrated for decades. The significance of the date goes back to 1865.

As the Civil war raged, President Abraham Lincoln made the decision in 1863 to issue a proclamation freeing the slaves; one of the major moral conflicts between the North and the South. While slaves in northern states and southern states where the Union army had advanced were told, parts of  the confederacy remained locked in slavery.

Finally, on June 19, 1865, came the Emancipation Proclamation— which had been issued on January 1, 1863, when the Union Army arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the former confederate state. It was read by Gordon Granger to the last enslaved African Americans in the confederacy.

Recent public surveys show that more than 30 percent of Americans know generally what Juneteenth is, perhaps because they have the day off. Chaffee County government offices are closed on Monday, June 20 in honor of the day, because the holiday falls on a Sunday.

According to a recent Gallop Poll: Most states officially observe June 19 in some way to mark the abolition of slavery in the U.S. As the date approaches this year, a new Gallup poll finds:

  • Just over a third of Americans report having a lot (12 percent) or some knowledge (25 percent) about the “Juneteenth” celebration.
  • Another 34 percent reporting knowing a little about it.
  • Some 28 percent of Americans report knowing nothing at all about Juneteenth.

More than two in three Black Americans (69 percent) say they have a lot or some knowledge about Juneteenth, compared with 40 percent of Hispanic Americans and 31  percent of White Americans.

While some might say that this holiday matters only to a segment of the population, they would be wrong. The promise of freedom and equality for all Americans is an American ideal that remains to be realized for many marginalized people.