America celebrates Juneteenth amid cries for justice

The oldest nationally commemorated celebration of the end of slavery carries greater meaning as voices around the nation echo calls for racial justice at protests.
2:40 | 06/20/20

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Transcript for America celebrates Juneteenth amid cries for justice
gentleman in our news tonight saying it's about our freedom, a you are hope, our future. Here's linsey Davis. Reporter: Theirs are the names that made headline news -- Ahmad arbery, George Floyd, rayshard brooks, breonna Taylor -- and then there are the countless others. Say his name! George Floyd! Reporter: Names chanted by protesters throughout America's urban and suburban streets in cities large and small throughout every corner of America, demanding an end to systemic racism. From black lives matter to "I am a man," the exhaustive outcries have been shouted for decades. No justice! No peace! Reporter: Often falling on deaf ears. The recent protests are forcing America to confront its painful history and the legacies of slavery that linger still today. But from that suffering has emerged an even greater meaning and desire to understand the tradition of today's juneteenth holiday and the pursuit of freedom. It is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of U.S. Slavery. While president Abraham Lincoln's emancipation proclamation came in 1863, the slaves in Texas didn't know they had been freed until union troops entered galveston, Texas, and made the announcement on June 19th, 1865. Laura Smalley, who was born a slave in Texas, was a child when it happened and gave this interview in 1941. We didn't know where to go. Mom and them didn't know where to go. You see, after freedom broke, they started just, like, to turn some of them out, you know? Didn't know where to go. They turned them loose on the 19th of June. That's why, you know, we celebrate that day. Black lives matter! Reporter: Today, 155 years later, communities are marking the holiday with marches, celebrations and demands for equality and justice. Exemplifying the African-American spirit of resilience, strength, and perseverance. I'm a young black man doing all that I can to stand we have had enough struggle god protect me I just want to live I just want to live Reporter: And David, tonight, just a short time from now we're going to look at this history, so often ao mitted from textbooks and classrooms that helps give some context to this moment. We're also going to spotlight some of the hope and sense of overcoming this day represents as this country Grandson of holocaust survivors. Brother of a young man with special needs. Federal Prosecutor who protected Medicare and fought fraudsters, polluters, and gun-runners.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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