"Juneteenth is important because the idea [of] emancipation to African Americans after the Civil War wasn't just a signing of the Emancipation Proclamation or ratification of the 13th Amendment," Birmingham History teacher Barry McNealy told NPR. "When these things had been done, there were still those that refused to allow people held in bondage to be free and to go on with their lives."
"Juneteenth means that the dark night of slavery had come to an end and it opens us up to the future that's possible for this whole country. I think that it's important for Americans to understand that the life that we enjoy today, the life that people live today, was not an overnight process."
Despite celebrations from Texas -- where the holiday began when news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached the last plantations -- all the way to Massachusetts, Juneteenth is not a nationally recognized holiday.
"A lot of folks in Congress from both parties have acknowledged the significance of Juneteenth with various resolutions, but we're going to try to get that bill reintroduced."
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