A holiday that is spreading across the U.S. and beyond, Juneteenth is considered the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.
Up to 10,000 people are expected to take part from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday at Frank H. Ball Park, 760 Mayor Ave., in southwest Fresno.
This year’s theme is “United We Stand.”
Organizers say there be a parade, inspirational speakers, workshops, games, food, and live entertainment.
The parade kicks off at 10 a.m. from the FoodMaxx shopping center at Fresno and B streets.
Fresno has celebrated Juneteenth for more than 30 years, according to the Fresno Juneteenth website.
Woody Miller, Bobby Brown Honored
In addition, the late Woody Miller will be recognized for his contributions to the Fresno community at the African-American Historical and Cultural Museum’s annual Jazz and Blues exhibit.
The event will also honor jazz musician Bobby Brown.
The jazz and blues affair starts at 6 p.m. Saturday and is free.
The museum is at 1857 Fulton St.
The celebration started with the freed slaves of Galveston, Texas. Although the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in the South in 1863, it could not be enforced in many places until after the end of the Civil War in 1865.
Laura Smalley, who was freed from a plantation near Bellville, Texas, remembered in a 1941 interview that her former master had gone to fight in the Civil War and came home without telling his slaves what had happened.
“Old master didn’t tell, you know, they was free,” Smalley said . “I think now they say they worked them, six months after that. Six months. And turn them loose on the 19th of June. That’s why, you know, we celebrate that day.”
It was June 19, 1865 when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger and his Union troops arrived at Galveston with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.
Granger read from General Order No. 3, which said: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”
The next year, the now-freed slaves started celebrating Juneteenth in Galveston, and the celebration has continued around the nation and the world since.
What Does Juneteenth Mean?
The term Juneteenth is a blend of the words June and nineteenth. The holiday has also been called Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day.
Black Texans took the holiday with them as they moved around the country and overseas, Evans said, and what started as a local celebration went international.
Forty-five states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday or day of recognition, like Flag Day. Countries like South Korea, Ghana, Israel, Taiwan, France, and the U.S. territory of Guam have held or now hold Juneteenth celebrations.
A resolution recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday passed the Senate last year, but the accompanying resolution has not been approved in the House.
Remembering the Past
Juneteenth celebrations used to revolve around the church with speeches and picnics, said Para LaNell Agboga, museum site coordinator at the George Washington Carver Museum, Cultural and Genealogy Center in Austin, Texas, which has one of the only permanent Juneteenth museum exhibits in the country.
It changed around the 1960s with the civil rights movement, she said.
“It became a little more secular and stretched over more than one day,” Agboga said. “It became kind of a time of community gathering … It’s really more huge parties and huge parades and big concerts, but always bringing in freedom. It’s all about freedom.”