With companies, states, and cities announcing Juneteenth as a holiday and calls mounting for the date to become a national holiday, questions have been asked what the holiday represents and what Americans will be doing for the day.
Juneteenth, held on June 19 every year, is a symbolic date celebrating the end of slavery in the US.
This year, the issue of racial inequality is directly in the spotlight, with protests breaking out across the US, and the world, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
States, cities, and businesses across the US have begun enshrining Juneteenth as a holiday – putting the date in the same category as other holidays such as Independence Day.
What is Juneteenth?
On June 19 in 1865, federal soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, carrying news that the US Civil War was over and that Union forces had triumphed. With this, the soldiers were able to enact US President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves.
The Proclamation, which came into force on January 1, 1863, had not been enforced in the southern breakaway Confederate states, where slavery remained in place until the end of the Civil War.
The protests that have rocked the US in recent weeks have put more pressure on business, individuals, and politicians to respond to allegations of racial inequality.
On Wednesday, PepsiCo announces that it would be changing the 130-year old name of its Aunt Jemima breakfast product line, and acknowledged that the name was “based on a racial stereotype.”
Companies have also taken to donating money to causes supporting racial equality. PepsiCo had previously announced a $400 million donation over the next five years on Tuesday.