What is Juneteenth and why is it so important in the history of slavery?

Juneteenth is the commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, but the day will take on an extra meaning in the wake of George Floyd's killing.

June 19 marks the day back in 1865 when Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas, to announce the civil war was over and the final group of African Americans were now free.

The day came more than two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official on January 1, 1863.

It is believed the delay between the proclamation and announcing the end of slavery in Texas was due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order, Juneteenth.com explains.

The emancipation of slaves in Galveston, Texas, happened two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Credit: AP

But with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.

General Granger read out to the people of Texas - General Order Number 3.

It read: "The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.

"This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labourer."

Juneteenth is a celebration of the end of slavery. Credit: AP

The name - Juneteenth - is a combination of June and Nineteenth and is also known as Emancipation Day, Juneteenth Independence Day and Black Independence Day.

The day is remembered in America with celebrations and the descendants of former slaves making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date.

Celebrations of Juneteenth usually involve rodeos, fishing, barbecuing, picnics and and educational and historical services.

ITV News filmed the stories of four African Americans living in Atlanta in Georgia - the home of Martin Luther King.

They told us about their experiences and the urgent need for change.

Dr Beverly Guy-S​heftall tells ITV News of her experience of racism and is hopeful that America will vote in a new president, who can bring change.

"From something as seemingly minor as walking into a classroom and most of the white students think you are a student or even cleaning as opposed to teaching."

"Or the difficulty of getting hired or the difficulty of getting a ten year promotion or the difficulty of becoming say a President at those institutions, so I'm very aware of the difference of experience."

She added: "The other thing I will mention is the heavy service burden that black women experience at white institutions, especially around issues of diversity or race, so they assume you've got an issue, let's call the black women in to do the work."

"So black women experience what I call an enormous burden, both in visibility and invisibility in terms of work load."

"I want to be hopeful but I think if there is not a chance in the White House in November, most of us won't be hopeful anymore."

Discrimination comes with a 'heavy load'

Antonio told ITV News of his experience of racism as a gay, black man and the discrimination he faces.

He said: "Being black in America, discrimination comes with a heavy load, as for dealing with the stigma, brutality among our own people and not being accepted."

He added: "We have to be careful about what we said especially to a white person, we was not allowed to think of them as our equal."

"It always they are a place above us, we are lower class" in comparison.

He added that as a black person, "you try to be careful with what you are doing, you know, your speed limit, make sure that you give the correct amount of money in the grocery store."

Antonio also said that he "doesn't feel like he's at home" while being a gay, black man.

"You're discriminated against, especially at parades, you're not able to walk down the streets or be yourself and with being that way, it holds you back from doing a lot of things in life."

'We are preyed upon on a daily basis'

A pastor in Atlanta describes the moment he first saw the George Floyd video and what he felt.

"When I saw the George Floyd video, how horrible, as I pondered it, I labelled it as a televised crucifixion because we literally watched a man take his last breath, eight minutes and 46 seconds."

Pastor Anthony Motley added: "We watched racism, we watched a racist police officer put his knee on George Floyd's neck and suffocate him to death, he died - George Floyd, not because of some counterfeit $20 bill that we were told about, he died because he was a black man."

"He died because of racism of systemic racism, concentrated and reflected so often on police departments and the streets of our city."

Justin Giles tells ITV News he thinks that what happened to George Floyd could have easily happened to anyone he knows.

He said: "If we are so-called free and this is the land of the free then why are we not actually free, why are people actually killing us and nothing is happening to them?"

"The first time I saw a George Floyd video it was just really heavy on my conscious, I'm just like this could be me, it could be my brother or my friend, it could be anyone that I know, just to know the fact is that it's not just anybody out there, it's mostly black man."

He added that every time he leaves his house he thinks about whether he should change direction or pick a certain route because of fear that he might be stopped due to the fact he's black.

Juneteenth is an official state holiday in Texas but it is not a national holiday in the rest of America, although there have been calls to make it an official American holiday.

This year, the day will take on an even more significant meaning in the wake of the George Floyd protests and calls for the country to address racial injustice and inequality.