SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — This Saturday is known as Juneteenth. The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill that would declare June 19th a federal holiday. We asked people in downtown Sioux Falls a simple question: What is Juneteenth?

“Juneteenth is when slavery ended for real,” Tiffany Weems said.

According to a national poll, nearly 30 percent of Americans know nothing about the holiday.

“It wasn’t something that I was ever taught in school. I kind of got educated about it on social media honestly. I don’t think it’s like a normalized thing, which I find odd because it’s a really big day for a lot of people,” Molly Wetsch said.

June 19th of 1865, two and a half years after the signing of the emancipation proclamation, the last enslaved people in Texas were freed. This day is now the longest celebrated African American holiday.

“The history of reconstruction is not a very pretty one. But we have been sort of occasionally here in America coming back and rethinking it,” Associate Professor of History at SDSU Chuck Vollan said.

People will be celebrating the day in at least two South Dakota communities.
Terrace Park West in Sioux Falls will have music, food trucks, kids’ activities and more. Vermillion will have a chalk event at Prentis Park.

“I definitely think that it’s something to be celebrated, and that we celebrate our country’s freedom on July 4th so that should absolutely be celebrated on June 19,” Weems said.