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Astronauts and NASA pay homage to Juneteenth

Astronauts and NASA have taken to social media to commemorate today's Juneteenth holiday from Earth and space.

Juneteenth, also known as African American Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, marks the date โ€” June 19, 1865 โ€” when tens of thousands of Africa-Americans in Texas were emancipated. While President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863 freed slaves in U.S., many of the Confederate states ignored it. 

But, two years later, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, a Union Army general, issued orders to free the enslaved people in what was then the reclaimed confederate territory of Texas, which was one of the final acts of emancipation in the country.

NASA, former NASA astronauts Mae Jemison, Leland Melvin and current NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps are memorializing the day and their thoughts online. 

Related: Charles Bolden, NASA's 1st Black administrator, speaks out on systemic racism

NASA shared an image of Texas from space of Galveston, Texas with a caption commemorating the holiday. "#Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, learned of their emancipation. In this view from space, Galveston is seen from the @Space_Station. Today we reflect on how far we've come and how much further we have to go," the agency wrote on Twitter.

More: NASA's SpaceX launch is not the cure for racial injustice on Earth

Melvin, who served as a mission specialist on two Space Shuttle missions โ€” STS-122 and STS-129, shared a beautiful tribute to the day that included not only a short history lesson but a snapshot with a number of people of color who have had a significant, lasting impact on the space sector and on the world. 

Melvin wrote on Twitter: "Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when General Major Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas and read a federal order abolishing the institution of chattel slavery in the state."

He also shared a photo of himself standing with people including NASA astronaut Victor Glover, who is set to become the first black astronaut to join the International Space Station Crew when he launches with SpaceX's Crew-1 mission later this year; Epps; NASA astronaut Stephanie Wilson and even Nichelle Nichols, who famously played Nyota Uhura in the original "Star Trek" series. 

Epps retweeted Melvin's sentiment and added "Happy Juneteenth! Itโ€™s a very important day to celebrate."

Jemison also included important historical details in her tribute to the holiday. On Twitter she wrote: "#Juneteenth recognizes & celebrates Black peopleโ€™s freedom and the end of slavery in the US! 19 Jun 1865 Union Army General issued orders to free enslaved people in the retaken confederate territory of Texas 2 years after Lincoln signed the #EmancipationProclamation 1 Jan 1863."

Email Chelsea Gohd at cgohd@space.com or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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