Communities all across the Denver metro area gathered over the weekend to celebrate the end of slavery.
Juneteenth, which falls on June 19 every year, is a holiday to recognize the end of slavery in the United States, commemorating the day Black slaves in Texas were told they were free and that the Confederacy had surrendered. Last week, President Joe Biden signed the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act,” which designates Juneteenth as a legal public holiday.
All nine members of Colorado’s Congressional Delegation voted in favor of making Juneteenth a federal holiday.
“On Juneteenth, we recommit ourselves to the work of equity, equality, and justice. And, we celebrate the centuries of struggle, courage, and hope that have brought us to this time of progress and possibility,” Biden said in a statement. “That work has been led throughout our history by abolitionists and educators, civil rights advocates and lawyers, courageous activists and trade unionists, public officials, and everyday Americans who have helped make real the ideals of our founding documents for all.”
Nearly two months after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered, Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865 to tell Black slaves they were freed. Ranger’s message was delivered two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation where President Abraham Lincoln declared all slaves within Confederate territory were free.
Last year, George Floyd’s death created more interest in further recognizing Juneteenth. Floyd, a Black man, was killed by Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis Police officer. Earlier this year, Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
In Five Points, the holiday was celebrated with a parade and a music festival over the weekend. Denverite reported that the celebration is a tradition in the area that dates back to the 1950’s. Thousands of people made their way to the neighborhood to celebrate the end of slavery and to support Black-owned businesses and organizations.
Biden acknowledged that the United States has a long history of systemic racism, inequality and inhumanity. He said Juneteenth is a day that reminds us of our capacity to heal, hope and emerge from our darkest moments with purpose and resolve.
“We must recognize that Black Americans, among other people of color, have shouldered a disproportionate burden of loss — while also carrying us through disproportionately as essential workers and health care providers on the front lines of the (pandemic),” Biden said.
Back in 1860, U.S. Census data shows there were nearly 4 million slaves in the United States. One year after Granger’s announcement, former slaves gathered on Juneteenth. In 1980, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday.
You can learn more about Juneteenth and how to celebrate the holiday with family and friends next year at juneteenth.com.