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What is Juneteenth and why do we celebrate it?

Historians claim many slave owners intentionally withheld the news in order to keep labor intact.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Our country is one step closer to making Juneteenth a federal holiday.

Though it's making headlines now, the celebration, which marks the true end of slavery in the United States, is not new. On Jan. 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves of the Confederate states.

But word didn't travel as fast in the 1860s as it does in today's society.

It took two-and-a-half years for Lincoln's proclamation to reach Texas and its quarter of a million slaves. Historians claim many slave owners intentionally withheld the news in order to keep labor intact.

RELATED: Congress passes bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

But that changed when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, in 1865. On June 19, 1865, the slaves were freed.

The first Juneteenth was celebrated in Austin in 1867. Texas became the first state to declare it a holiday more than a century later in 1980.

Juneteenth has been celebrated in the U.S. for decades with barbecues, rodeos, baseball games and church ceremonies.

Today, 48 states, along with Washington D.C., recognize Juneteenth. It is known by many as the Second Independence Day.

RELATED: VERIFY: No, the Juneteenth holiday was not started after the death of George Floyd

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