The historic holiday, which celebrates the official end of slavery in the US, has taken on renewed significance this year.
There have long been calls for it to be instituted as a federal holiday. This year, amid nationwide anti-racism protests following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, many companies have given employees the day off.
The BBC spoke to Dr Greg Carr, professor of Afro-American studies at Howard University, and a number of Americans planning to celebrate.
Video by Caché McClay and Shrai Popat