Although Juneteenth was celebrated long before it became a federal holiday, this year it was the occasion of a great celebration across the country.
After years of campaigning for Juneteenth to be recognized as a national holiday, Juneteenth National Independence Day was officially promulgated by President Joe Biden on Thursday. The holiday honors June 19, 1865, the day in history when black people in Galveston, Texas learned they were no longer in slavery nearly three years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the proclamation of emancipation.
Although Juneteenth was celebrated long before it was designated a federal holiday, this year it was the occasion of a wide celebration across the United States.
In Brooklyn, New York, people gathered for the unveiling of a statue of George Floyd, including his brother Terrence Floyd and rapper Papoose.
Opal Lee, a 94-year-old Texas resident who has long campaigned for Juneteen to become a federal holiday, celebrated the milestone by walking 2.5 miles in her hometown of Fort Worth, Texas on Saturday.
Lee’s 2.5 mile walk is symbolic of the two and a half years it took for slaves in Texas to learn they had been freed after the Civil War ended. In 2016, Lee, who is known as “Juneteenth’s grandmother,” even walked from Fort Worth to Washington, DC in an effort to bring attention to Juneteenth.
“I have so many different feelings gurgling here. I don’t know what to call them all. I’m so thrilled to know that suddenly we have a Juneteenth. It’s not a Texas thing or a black thing. It’s an American thing, ”Lee told CBS when she learned Congress passed a bill to recognize Juneteenth as a public holiday.
“We could take a break, but we have all these disparities that we need to sort out and I mean all of them. While we have the momentum, hopefully we can make a part of it. We can have one America if we try, ”she said.
Lee was also invited to the White House on Thursday to witness President Biden’s signing of a law designating Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
Residents of Atlanta, Georgia gathered for a parade in honor of Juneteenth.
In Washington, DC, others gathered at the Black Lives Matter Plaza to celebrate the New Federal Day, including bride and groom who danced in the middle of the rally.
In Galveston, Texas, the hometown of Juneteenth in 1865, spectators watched a parade from a decorated house.
A crowd marched in Louisville, Kentucky.
At St. Augustine Catholic Church in New Orleans, people held a ceremony and gave musical performances.