Juneteenth is now a federal holiday after President Biden signed the bill into law this afternoon. The celebration commemorating the day those who were still enslaved in Texas found out they were free has already started around the state.
West African Dancers and drummers ignited the crowd at the Juneteenth celebration inside Bloomfield's Alvin & Beatrice Wood Human Services Center.
"This is extremely important as a teaching tool, a mechanism to let people who don't know the full history of this country," said Rev. Dr. Alvan Johnson. "It's a new era in all of America because it's about freedom and it's about people knowing that they're free."
George Harris and Harold Lee are both in their 80s and told NBC Connecticut they appreciate the renewed awareness around Juneteenth.
"I'm glad to see that they finally passed it and it's a legal holiday," said Harold Lee. "They should start teaching it more anyway to the younger people especially to the schools," said George Harris.
So what is the day and what does it mean to those who celebrate it?
"It's a recognition of the day that the enslaved Africans in Galveston, Texas first learned that they had in fact been freed," said Joelle Murchison, the founder of ExecMommyGroup. "African Americans have recognized the day for years, there's a lot more visibility certainly on the heels of the killing of George Floyd."
Joelle Murchison is this year's keynote speaker for Hartford's Juneteenth celebration. Murchison said she believes the day should be filled with education while honoring the contributions underrepresented groups have made in this country but should also serve as a reminder of how far the country has to go.
"There was a role that other Americans played outside of those who are of European descent and the building and development of this nation," said Murchison. "We should be listening, talking, dialoguing and legislating so that we can become the United States of America that we actually said we wanted to be."
The fact that this commemoration is now a national holiday is welcoming news to one of the people who co-sponsored the legislation, Congresswoman Jahana Hayes.
"The significance that it holds in our country is not just to the African American or the Black community it's for everyone because it is a moment in our history where we recognize that all persons in this country," said Hayes.