Slavery didn’t end with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Although President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed in 1863 the freedom of “all persons held as slaves” within the Confederacy, in practice, the unjust American institution wouldn’t conclude for about two more years Juneteenth, which was officially declared a federal holiday last year, celebrates this milestone.
The event traces its roots back to Texas, where too few Union troops were stationed to actually enforce the Emancipation Proclamation.
“It would be more than two years until General Gordon Granger of the Union army arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, and told those still held captive that they were free,” says Gwen Moore, curator of urban landscape and community identity for the Missouri Historical Society. “General Granger’s orders marked the beginning of Juneteenth celebrations. As the once-enslaved population of Galveston began originating Texas, they took the traditions of Juneteenth with them, and the celebration spread to other states.”
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Slavery was officially abolished in 1865 with the ratification of the 13th Amendment. As time passed, Juneteenth expanded, but primarily only in Black communities.
However, within the past several decades, Juneteenth has received more widespread recognition. In 1980, Texas officially acknowledged Juneteenth as a state holiday, and in successive years, at least 41 other states and the District of Columbia followed suit to recognize the day. Yet the movement to recognize Juneteenth gained serious momentum in 2020 and 2021, amid the social unrest associated with the 2020 police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.
Finally, in June 2021, the federal government formally consecrated Juneteenth as a national holiday with the passage of a bipartisan bill, the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act.
“I would hope that as it continues to grow, it will aid in a greater understanding of our shared past and how that past unites us in achieving common goals that uphold American ideals,” Moore says. celebration. It is an appreciation of African American history and culture, and a recognition that the Black past is intertwined with what we used to think of as the larger American story. ”
With more understanding comes greater focus on commemorating the holiday. This year, organizers in the Delmar Loop plan to honor Juneteenth with a celebration on Saturday, June 11, from noon to 5 pm Organizers invite people from across the metro area to spend a day enjoying family-friendly fun like live music, hands-on art activities, food, music and more, all opening with a drum call.
“Look for live art, including a community mural painting and activities at St. Louis Artworks,” says Celeste Grayer, event manager for the celebration “There will be fun for the whole family, with live music, African drumming, dancing, food, bounce houses, face painting, henna, giveaways from Shoe Fly, a 360 photo booth and button makers. ”
The Delmar Loop is home to around 30 Black-owned businesses and first celebrated Juneteenth in 2018. Because this year’s event takes place before Juneteenth, Grayer says the festivities will serve as a fitting start to the metro area’s holiday celebrations: “This is a great way to kick off Juneteenth and ensure that you and your family can make it to all of the celebrations that will be held around the region. ”
Still, as Moore says, Juneteenth isn’t like some other holidays, where celebrants easily forget the meaning and message the next day. She encourages people to learn about Juneteenth and about African American history, both in the metro area and in the country.
A good place to start? The Missouri History Museum’s online exhibit, “# 1 in Civil Rights: The African American Freedom Struggle in St. Louis,” which is available for free at civil-rights.mhs.yourcultureconnect.com and showcases the city’s role in freeing enslaved people leading up to and during the Civil War, as well as the civil rights movement that followed.
“We can all continue the growth of the newest national holiday by continuing to celebrate it in meaningful ways,” Moore says. “That includes the programs and festivities, but also by honestly exploring our unvarnished common past: the good and the discomforting.”
Saturday, June 11: Juneteenth in the Delmar Loop
5800 and 5900 blocks of Delmar Boulevard, noon to 5 pm, visittheloop.com
Thursday, June 16: Juneteenth Keynote Lecture and Gospel Music Performance: Honoring Reverend Dr. John N. Doggett Jr.
Missouri History Museum, 5:30 to 8 pm, mohistory.org
Sunday, June 19: St. Louis Symphony Orchestra commemorative concert with SLSO IN UNISON Chorus and IN UNISON Scholars
Greater Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church, 2pm, slso.org
Saturday and Sunday, June 25 and 26: SHOW ME JUNETEENTH STL
Harris-Stowe State University soccer field, showmejuneteenthstl.com