Parades, picnics and history were on the scene Saturday to commemorate June 19 in the United States, a day that took on even greater significance after Congress and President Joe Biden recognized the annual commemoration of the effective end of slavery as a federal holiday.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers announced freedom to enslaved blacks in Texas, two months after Confederation surrendered. This was about two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the southern states, at least on paper.
Biden on Thursday signed a bill creating the National Independence Day of June.
With June 19 falling on a Saturday, the government observed the holiday on Friday.
At least nine states had designated Juneteenth as an official paid holiday, all but one – Texas – acting after Floyd, a black man, was killed last year in Minneapolis.
In Galveston, Texas, the birthplace of the party, the celebrations included the dedication of a 5,000 square foot mural titled Absolute Equality.
Opal Lee, 94, who was by Biden’s side when he signed the bill, returned to Fort Worth, Texas, to lead a 2.5 mile (2.5 mile) march symbolizing two and a half years that it took the slaves in Texas to find out that they had been freed.
Sacramento’s black community has been hosting Juneteenth festivals for 20 years, and this year featured a parade, talent show, food fair, Emancipation Proclamation reading and even a golf tournament.
“This is the first Juneteenth where he is recognized nationally and socially, by the masses and not just within the black community,” said organizer Gary Simon. “We have seen a slight increase in the number of non-black people coming here over the past few years, and I see the difference in the conversations taking place today.”