By Cindy Hsu

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Juneteenth is a holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the United States, and many African Americans consider June 19 Independence Day.

As CBS2’s Cindy Hsu reports, the fight continues as strongly as ever to make it a national holiday.

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Juneteenth is marked with parades and celebrations, and the holiday received its name by combining June and 19th. The first observance was back in the 1800s and they have continued, even through the pandemic.

“I’ve always attended the Juneteenth parades, but they’ve never been as large as this one, so I’m just excited to be a part of this,” one person said at a 2020 event.

It marks June 19th, 1865 — the day word of freedom finally reached enslaved people in Texas.

“Slaves in Texas didn’t know they were free until a General Gordon Granger made his way to Galveston with troops to tell slaves they were free, but this is two and a half years after the emancipation,” activist Opal Lee explained.

Even after the end of slavery, plans were put in place to re-enslave people with convict leasing laws.

“If you looked homeless, if you looked like you were loitering, if you looked unemployed, you could be arrested and then the slave planters could go and lease you from the prisons,” said diversity and impact executive Dr. Donald E. Grant Jr.

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Lee, who’s 94, has been fighting for years to make Juneteenth a national holiday.

Last year, then-Sen. Kamala Harris and others introduced a bill to officially make it happen. But so far, it hasn’t passed.

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Right now, there are only three states that don’t recognize Juneteenth in some official way: Hawaii, South Dakota and North Dakota. 

Dr. Grant said he hopes this year, people will mark the day by learning more about history and the Black community.

“For me, being able to support a Black business on Juneteenth is more important than going to the march or going to the parade,” he said. 

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He said Juneteenth should become a more multi-cultural celebration.

“I need white people to celebrate, I need Asian people to celebrate, I need Latinx people to celebrate it, because, as we know, one group’s liberation is grounded in all of our liberation,” he said.

Dr. Grant said there’s still a long way to go to acknowledge the historical trauma the Black community is dealing with, and the triggers keep coming — from the killing of George Floyd, to the Capitol riots in Washington.

He said the Juneteenth celebration is necessary to remind us and energize us to maintain the fight against oppression.

Juneteenth is also celebrated in other countries, including Ghana, Japan and Trinidad and Tobago.

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Cindy Hsu