KEY POINTS

  • Juneteenth is the day when Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to enforce the liberty of 250,000 slaves
  • A 12-hour celebration will take place in DC to celebrate the holiday, complete with live music and outdoor performances
  • In Alabama, a Birmingham Black Pride will offer free admission, free food and free COVID-19 and HIV testing to attendees

Juneteenth marks a very special day for America and its people. Derived from the words "June" and "Nineteenth," Juneteenth is the day Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to deliver the message of freedom for slaves.

The federal holiday commemorates the hardships that were endured by former slaves as well as the freedom they had finally attained after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. For many of the slaves in Texas, however, the good news was kept out of their knowledge.

Gen. Granger's visit to Galveston, Texas successfully enforced the liberty of the enslaved black people in the state. There, he read out General Order Number 3, informing the 250,000 slaves that they had been given the choice to stay as hired workers or leave their masters in search of a new life, according to NPR.

"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 rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer," the order read.

Demonstrators take part in a Juneteenth march and rally in Washington Demonstrators take part in a Juneteenth march and rally in Washington Photo: AFP / Olivier DOULIERY

Since their emancipation, former slaves and their descendants would travel back to Galveston annually in honor of the day they were finally given liberty. The tradition quickly spread out to other states in the country, and it continues to be celebrated to this day.

Washington DC will be celebrating the special day with parties and with people showing their support to black businesses. At the Eaton Hotel on Saturday, for example, multimedia activists and artists are hosting a 12-hour celebration lasting from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m.

A Juneteenth Bike Ride will also be happening in DC on Saturday. For those who wish to join but do not own bikes, Bike and Roll DC is offering discounts on its bike rentals using the promo code "SCBC20."

Meanwhile, in Alabama, a Birmingham Black Pride will take place. According to its organizers, the event will feature free food and even free testing for COVID-19 and HIV. Admission is free as well.

At St. Louis, City Foundry STL is hosting a jam-packed event. Complete with live music and outdoor performances, the free event will feature interactive sports, a yoga session and a performance by Zida Lioness.

Although most of the practices on Juneteenth differ from the way the former slaves celebrated it, the heart of the holiday remains the same -- black freedom, resilience and empowerment.

Demonstrators participate in a Juneteenth march and rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington Demonstrators participate in a Juneteenth march and rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington Photo: AFP / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS