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For many, Juneteenth celebrations have new impact in 2021

Juneteenth was officially recognized as a federal holiday by the White House Thursday.

ATLANTA — The National Center for Civil and Human Rights in downtown Atlanta is throwing a virtual celebration and book giveaway Friday in honor of Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the US.

Juneteenth was officially recognized as a federal holiday by the White House Thursday.

For many, the holiday has an even deeper significance this year.

“Juneteenth is the day that recognizes that the enslaved in Galveston, Texas, learned that they were free," explained Nicole Moore, education director for the National Center for Civil and Human rights in Atlanta. "It took a while for news to travel, two and a half years after the emancipation proclamation.”

June 19, 1865 is when the news finally reached everyone.

"Every Juneteenth moving forward, it is a celebration about liberation, but it is also a celebration about learning who we are," Moore said, adding that there are many different ways people celebrate.

"People always kind of look at me funny when I'm like, 'barbecue and strawberry soda,'" Moore laughed. "But those were some of the first things that happened. You did a reading, you acknowledged the ancestors, you ate really good, you made sure that Mildred brought her good potato salad."

For decades, June 19 has been a day for celebration, parades, marches and yes -- barbeques. But also, for reflection.

Credit: AP
FILE - In this Friday, June 19, 2020, file photo, demonstrators protest during a Juneteenth rally at the Brooklyn Museum, in the Brooklyn, N.Y. President Joe Biden signed into law Thursday, June 17, 2021, a bill designating Juneteenth—which commemorates June 19, 1865 when enslaved people in Texas learned they had been freed—as the 11th federal holiday. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

“We've got to make sure that people understand why we celebrate this day, that within the celebration, there's commemoration," Moore said. "Everybody wants their story to be told. We're just saying it really loud, sprinkling in some barbecue and soda, we’re gonna feed you, we’re gonna get you real happy. And then we're going to tell you these hard truths, and then we're going to learn from them. And we're going to work together to make a better society.”

So, what is Juneteenth?

It’s celebration, and liberation. It’s recognition of the hard road traveled, and the one still ahead.

“There are young people counting on us," Moore said. "My children shouldn't have to experience the world as I experienced it. Just like my parents wish that I didn't experience the world like they experienced it, and the generations before them. I know it's rough. But we got this.”

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights virtual event Friday kicks off at noon. People can register online. The center is also open all weekend. The first 500 families to visit will get a free children's book celebrating black history.