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Morgan State Archivist Reflects On Juneteenth As The Federal Holiday Approaches

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- It's been nearly one year since President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Act, which made June 19 a national holiday.

Juneteenth, also called Freedom Day, marks the end of slavery in the United States.

"African Americans are the only population that have had to move according to the laws to allow them to expand themselves or identify themselves as citizens," explained Morgan State University's Archivist, Dr. Ida Jones.

The celebration was born more than two years after President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 during the American Civil War, which declared slaves living in Confederate states to be freed. However, the news would take much longer to reach slaves in Texas.

"The Texans are informed that in accordance with the proclamation of the executive United States, all slaves are free," said Dr. Jones.

Union soldiers went to Texas on June 19, 1865, to inform residents that slavery came to an end.

The following year on that day, the first official Juneteenth celebrations took place in Texas. Eventually, the holiday spread to other states. And in 2021, President Biden made Juneteenth a federal holiday.

"I think with President Biden doing this, he at least acknowledges there's been some wrong. He's one of the first presidents to do so," Dr. Jones said.

Despite the holiday being celebrated for generations, the archivist explained that still, many are unaware of what the day represents for the Black community.

"There will always be someone who's feeling the pinch of that but there is also someone who is feeling the release of that," Dr. Jones said. "So if you've been the one in release, maybe it's time you get a little pinch so you can know what others have endured."

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