Tags: juneteenth | celebration | slavery | holiday

Juneteenth Celebrations Commemorate End of Slavery in US

By    |   Thursday, 19 Jun 2014 01:28 PM

Juneteenth festivals kicked off around the country this Thursday, however many Americans remain unfamiliar with the holiday's meaning roughly 150 years after its first celebration.

The celebration dates back to the end of slavery, and Abraham Lincoln's signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Although the slaves of the United States were freed by the Proclamation, news of the signing took two years to reach some places, the last of which was the Lone Star state.

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"In 1865 in Galveston, Texas, black people were still living as slaves and the Union Soldiers came with news that the war ended and that we were free," Macon's annual festival host Vinson Muhammad told WMAZ Central Georgia.

"The Emancipation Proclamation is a great piece of paper, but they had to physically walk off the plantation. Paper doesn't make you free, action does," he explained.

Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19, the day the Proclamation was read in Galveston by General Gordon Granger, who was backed by 2,000 federal troops.

Telling the tale of his city's own history, Muhammad told reporters that Macon was surrendered to the Union soldiers on April 20, 1865, in the very square where the Juneteenth festival is held today, Tattnall Square Park.

He said celebrating in the park is "a fun way of learning it because all your friends come with you as well. You're not by yourself just sitting in a classroom listening to a lecture you actually get to be interactive with the people that are here."

Over in Alabama, at the 2014 Juneteenth Culture Fest held in Birmingham's Kelly Ingram Park, festival organizer Ahmad Ward told WBHM he's hoping that next year's 150th anniversary of Junteenth might bring more attention to the unofficial holiday.

"Juneteenth history is not mentioned in a lot of textbooks. Again, it might depend on where you are. But you're not going to learn about Juneteenth at school, unfortunately," said Ward, Head of Education and Exhibitions for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

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Juneteenth festivals kicked off around the country this Thursday, however many Americans remain unfamiliar with the holiday's meaning roughly 150 years after its first celebration.
juneteenth, celebration, slavery, holiday
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2014-28-19
Thursday, 19 Jun 2014 01:28 PM
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