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Juneteenth, an annual U.S. holiday on June 19, has taken on greater significance this year following nationwide protests over police brutality and the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and other African Americans.

U.S. protests guide: From George Floyd’s death to a national reckoning on racism

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Volunteers finish painting the Black Lives Matter mural around Court Square Fountain in downtown Montgomery, Ala., as a Juneteenth Art on the Square project on Friday June 19, 2020. Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and ensure all enslaved people be freed. (Mickey Welsh/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP)Mickey Welsh/The Associated Press

What is Juneteenth? Why is it called Juneteenth?

Juneteenth, a portmanteau of June and 19th, also is known as Emancipation Day.

It commemorates the day in 1865, after the Confederate states surrendered to end the Civil War, when a Union general arrived in Texas to inform the last group of enslaved African Americans of their freedom under President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.

In 1980, Texas officially declared it a holiday.

It is now recognized in 46 other states and the District of Columbia.

Although in part a celebration, the day is also observed solemnly to honour those who suffered during slavery in the United States with the arrival of the first enslaved Africans over 400 years ago.

Debra Thompson: Most holidays celebrate the past. Juneteenth is about an unrealized freedom

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ATLANTA, GEORGIA - JUNE 19: People march to the Georgia State Capitol during a Juneteenth event Organized by the One Race Movement on June 19, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when a Union general read orders in Galveston, Texas stating all enslaved people in Texas were free according to federal law. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)Joe Raedle/Getty Images

What is significant this year?

This year Juneteenth coincides with global protests against racial injustice sparked by the May 25 death of Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis police custody.

It also accompanies the coronavirus outbreak, which has disproportionately affected communities of colour.

Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump, who had already been under fire for his response to both crises, drew further criticism for scheduling a Friday re-election rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He has since moved it to Saturday.

Tulsa is an important and especially sensitive site where a white mob massacred African-American residents in 1921.

Community organizations countrywide will devote the day to discussions on policing and civil rights ahead of the November election.

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People carry a banner as they take part in events to mark Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in Texas, two years after the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves elsewhere in the United States, amid nationwide protests against racial inequality, in the Harlem neighbourhood of Manhattan, in New York City, New York, U.S., June 19, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew KellyANDREW KELLY/Reuters

How are people marking the day?

People will mark the 155th anniversary across the country with festive meals and gatherings.

While many cities have cancelled this year’s annual parades because of the pandemic, other groups have opted for virtual conferences or smaller events.

In Washington, groups plan marches, protests and rallies.

Work stoppage in support of Juneteenth shuts down West Coast ports

Juneteenth rallies, events planned across the U.S. to demand racial justice

Scenes from Juneteenth rallies across the United States and Canada to demand racial justice

Amid the wave of racial justice protests, some U.S. businesses have committed to a change of policies, including recognition of the holiday.

More than 460 companies, including Nike, Twitter and Lyft, have committed to observing Juneteenth, with the majority offering a paid day off, according to HellaCreative, a group of Black creative professionals in the San Francisco Bay Area that launched an initiative to galvanize corporate support for making the day an official holiday.

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People mark Juneteenth in Washington, on June 19, 2020, while protesting for racial equality. Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Gen. Gordon Granger entered Galveston, Texas, to lead the Union occupation force and delivered the news of the Emancipation Proclamation to enslaved people in the region. (Kenny Holston/The New York Times)Kenny Holston/The New York Times News Service

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