Parades, street festivals and speeches mark Juneteenth across the United States

ATLANTA, June 19 (Reuters) – With street parties, marching band trumpets and drums, speeches and a few political rallies, people across the United States marked June 19 this weekend, a jubilee commemorating the end of legal slavery for black Americans.

The events began Friday and continued through Sunday with concerts in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, freedom marches in Galveston, Texas, and jazz music in New York’s Harlem neighborhood.

“It’s America’s Day, not just African-Americans’ Day,” said Gerald Griggs, Georgia State chairman of the civil rights organization NAACP. “This is the real Independence Day, the day all Americans were free.”

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June 19, or June 19, marks the day in 1865 when a Union general informed a group of slaves in Texas that they were free. President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into effect in 1863, during the Civil War, but could not be implemented until Union troops wrested areas from Confederate control.

In 2021, President Joe Biden made Juneteenth a federally recognized holiday, and most states and many businesses give it recognition and hold celebrations.

In a proclamation on Friday, Biden remarked on the 10 people killed in a racist shooting in Buffalo, New York, on May 14.

“We must unite against white supremacy and show that bigotry and hatred have no refuge in America,” the proclamation said.

Sunday in Danbury, Conn., party girl and festival organizer Jacqueline Elam said making Juneteenth a federal holiday has raised awareness of an important historical marker that for years has been celebrated via barbecues, parades and other social events.

“It’s very important that this event be recognized not just as black history… It’s part of American history,” Elam told Reuters, as a performer sang the Spinners’ hit song, “I ‘ll Be Around’, to the crowd.

Griggs said Juneteenth is a dark time to reflect on the need for voting rights, prisons and law enforcement reforms, seen by many black Americans as discriminatory.

But he also urged all Americans to “go have fun, enjoy the party.”

Atlanta began with a festival in the heart of the city on Friday and parades began at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church where civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. preached.

Caroline Ware, 64, a housewife, waded through the crowds and colorful tents and bandstands of Atlanta to reach a food truck for a jerk chicken and curry snack.

“I’ll be honest, it’s a lot of fun, but I’m afraid young people don’t think enough about what it means,” Ware said. “I’ve lived here through the civil rights movement, Reverend King heard here. Looks like we’ve got more work ahead of us.”

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Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Additional reporting by Nathan Layne in Danbury, Connecticut; Editing by Grant McCool and Daniel Wallis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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