Juneteenth marked across U.S. for 1st time as a federal holiday

Parades, picnics and lessons in history marked Juneteenth celebrations on Saturday in the United States, a day that carried even more significance after Congress and President Joe Biden created a federal holiday to commemorate the end of slavery.

A new national holiday was “really awesome. It’s starting to recognize the African-American experience,” said Detroit artist Hubert Massey, 63. “But we still have a long way to go.”

In Detroit, which is 80 percent, Black, students from University Prep Art & Design High School dodged rain to repaint Massey’s block-long message, “Power to the People,” which was created last year on downtown Woodward Avenue.

The ‘o’ in “Power” was a red fist in memory of George Floyd and other victims of excessive force by police, Massey said.

“We did the original,” said Olivia Jones, 15, leaning on a long paint roller. “It’s important that we return and share that same energy.”

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas — two months after the Confederacy surrendered in the Civil War and about 2 1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in Southern states.

Biden on Thursday signed a bill creating Juneteenth National Independence Day. Since June 19 fell on a Saturday this year, the U.S. government observed the holiday on Friday.

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