Days after June 19th became a national holiday, U.S. communities come together to celebrate June 19, 1865, the day news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached Galveston, Texas, freeing the slaves in the final confederate state have abolition.
Events in Atlanta scheduled for Saturday include a march that begins in front of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr preached and led rallies for social and economic justice, equal access to public services. and the right to vote, according to reports.
Atlanta and the surrounding areas have been commemorating the 19th for years. Richard Rose, president of the Atlanta NAACP chapter, said Thursday’s declaration that June 19th is a federal holiday especially resonates in the southern city, often described as the “cradle of the civil rights movement.”
In Stone Mountain, Georgia, 20 miles northeast of Atlanta, the town of 6,500 is holding its first June 19 celebration. The event is particularly moving given the setting: Confederate figures are etched into the mountain, and this nine-story carving is the greatest tribute to the pro-slavery legacy of the South.
Chicago’s “March For Us” event will take place along a mile-long route in Chicago’s commercial section, known as the Loop. “We celebrate Independence Day, so I would be remiss if we didn’t celebrate the day when people who were worth three-fifths of the person were finally liberated and started this journey towards equality,” commented march organizer Ashley. Munson.
“June 19th in Queens” is one of the commemorative events in New York City. This week-long festival features virtual panel discussions and is scheduled to conclude on Saturday, with food trucks serving items like jerk chicken and waffles, and barbecue.
There are also in-person presentations at this event, which is led by New York State Assembly Member Alicia Hyndman, who sponsored legislation in 2020 that made June 18th a state holiday.
An event in Colorado will feature an overpass honoring Bessie Coleman’s legacy. In 1921, Coleman became the first African-American woman to obtain a pilot’s license.
“That’s what June 18th means to me, independence and freedom for African Americans that our ancestors fought for,” said Deneen Smith, a 17-year-old black high school student. Smith, an aspiring pilot, has been inspired by the Coleman story.
However, some 19th celebrations in the south have been postponed as Tropical Storm Claudette brings heavy rain, flooding and high winds to the Mississippi and Louisiana coast.
When Joe Biden signed into law the law recognizing the 19th as a federal holiday known as “National Independence Day of the 19th,” he said, “Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments … Great nations don’t walk away. We accept the mistakes we made. And remembering those moments, we began to heal and become stronger. “
Kamala Harris, the first black woman to serve as vice president, said at the White House bill signing ceremony on Thursday: “We are gathered here in a house built by enslaved people. We are steps away from where President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. “
“And we are here to witness President Joe Biden make June a national holiday. We have come a long way and we have a lot to do, but today is a day of celebration, ”Harris said.
On Saturday, Biden echoed his earlier comments. “The nineteenth marks both the long and hard night of slavery and subjugation and the promise of that brighter morning to come. It is a day of great weight and power. Today and every day, we must work to ensure that our nation finally delivers on its promise of equality for all, ”he said. saying On twitter.
Before Biden signed this legislation, Jun 16th was recognized in 48 states and Washington as a ceremonial or state holiday, according to USA Today. And while the Texas emancipation story is the best known, other watershed events in the emancipation history occurred around June 19, 1865.
Steve Williams, who heads the National June 19th Observance Foundation, said the first known June 19th commemorations began in 1866 and spread across the United States as African Americans moved to new cities, USA Today reported.
While African Americans rejoice that June 19th is turning into a federal holiday, many say much more is needed to combat systemic racism. Republican states have enacted laws or are weighing laws that advocates say would limit voting rights, especially for people of color.
Meanwhile, legislation that would increase voting rights and enact the police reforms demanded in the wake of George Floyd’s assassination and the deaths of other black Americans at the hands of the police has stalled in Congress. June 19th federal recognition comes amid Republican officials in the US trying to ban schools from teaching “critical race theory”As well as the history of slavery and the continuing impacts of systemic racism.
“It’s great, but it’s not enough,” said Gwen Grant, president of the Kansas City Urban League. “We need Congress to protect voting rights, and that needs to happen right now so that we don’t go back any further.
“That is the most important thing Congress can address at this time.”
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism