What is Juneteenth? Why the June 19 holiday matters...


Not long ago, Juneteenth was one of the more obscure days on the calendar. Despite the fact it's been around since 1865, the June 19 holiday gained real national attention in 2020, after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and others sparked Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality and systematic violence aimed at Black Americans.


In fact, Juneteenth -- a portmanteau of the day it's celebrated -- marks the freedom of enslaved Black people in the US. It's also known as Freedom Day or Jubilee Day. Observed by millions of Black Americans, it's commemorated to some degree in nearly every US state. Major companies like Spotify, Twitter and Lyft added Juneteenth to their calendars for the first time in 2020. Google made Juneteenth an official calendar holiday, too. (Apple's calendar already noted it.)


In the last year, there's been a more concerted effort to make Juneteenth a national holiday, including a petition on Change.org that has raised over 1.6 million signatures since it was introduced in 2020. Some companies and organizations also give employees the day off to observe the holiday. Last year, entrepreneur Elon Musk said he would make Juneteenth a permanent US holiday for his companies Tesla and SpaceX, though not a paid day off.


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