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The meaning behind the newest federal holiday, Juneteenth

Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 10:47 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - A day in history is now recognized as a federal holiday for the first time today, Juneteenth.

But do you know what Juneteenth is and the history behind it? WAFF 48 talked to a local historian for answers.

“Three years ago I first heard someone mention it on like Twitter,” David Elliot said.

“It was on the news, Juneteenth is now a federal holiday. Most people who said, ‘What’s Juneteenth?’ don’t know that much about it. But I think Juneteenth is about Black history, celebrating achievements of African Americans,” he continued.

More specifically, it’s about recognizing true freedom from slavery.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, there were still slaves under Confederate control, until June 19, 1865, in Galveston Texas when Union soldiers delivered the news that all slaves were free.

“It’s an introduction for many, unfortunately, it wasn’t taught in many of the school books,” owner and curator of Huntsville Revisited Museum, William Hampton said.

Hampton says he’s thrilled it’s finally being recognized on a federal level.

“That is my hope that Juneteenth, just as the fourth of July, the American independence will be included in current school curriculum,” he said.

Hampton hopes these kinds of changes will allow more progress can be made.

“Now conversations can take place and America can continue to heal from the great scar, the great wound that was enslavement in this country,” Hampton said.

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