ATLANTA / CHICAGO, June 19 (Reuters) – On Saturday, the United States marks June 17 for the first time as a federal holiday commemorating the end of legal slavery of black Americans.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday signed a bill making Juneteenth the eleventh federally recognized holiday, just over a year after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked nationwide protests for racial justice and to end police brutality.
June 19, or June 19, marks the day in 1865 when a Union General informed a group of Texas slaves that they had been freed two years earlier by President Abraham’s Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln during the Civil War.
Concerts, rallies, art exhibitions and plenty of food are among the events planned for Juneteenth across the country.
Atlanta and its metro area have celebrated June 15 for years. Richard Rose, president of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP, said the designation of Juneteenth this year as a federal holiday resonates in the city often referred to as the “birthplace of the civil rights movement.”
“As we celebrate, what we have to remember is that we have to fight for our rights – in the ballot boxes, in schools. And we have to stand up, from town to town, across this country,” he said. said Rose.
The parade and festivals planned in Atlanta on Saturday include a march starting in front of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King, Jr. preached and led protests for the right to vote, equal access public services and social and economic justice.
Just 20 miles northeast of Atlanta, Stone Mountain, a village of about 6,500 residents, is hosting its first-ever June 15 celebration this year.
Above the village stands a nine-story bas-relief of Confederate figures carved into a sprawling rock face, the largest monument to pro-slavery heritage in the southern United States.
Across the country, many events will take place in person, unlike last year, as the United States emerges from the coronavirus pandemic and more Americans get vaccinated.
Chicago’s “March For Us” has a mile-and-a-half-mile route through the city’s business district known as the Loop.
“We are celebrating Independence Day, so we would be remiss if we did not celebrate the day when people who were worth three-fifths of the person finally became free and began this journey to equality,” said Ashley. Munson, organizer of “March for Us”. .
Munson said that while progress has been made, recent incidents of police brutality against blacks and legislation in several states in the United States that restricts voting rights show that there is still a lot of work to be done.
Events planned in New York City include “Juneteenth in Queens”, a week-long virtual roundtable festival that ends Saturday with jerk chicken and waffle food trucks, a barbecue and more, as well as live performances. live in person.
The initiative is led by Assembly Member Alicia Hyndman, who last year sponsored a law that made Juneteenth a public holiday.
One of the events taking place in Colorado is a flyby to honor the legacy of aviation pioneer Bessie Coleman, who in 1921 became the first African-American woman to obtain a pilot’s license.
Deneen Smith, a 17-year-old black high school student and aspiring pilot, is inspired by Coleman’s story.
“That’s what Juneteenth means to me – independence and freedom for African Americans because of what our ancestors went through,” Smith said.
Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago, Maria Caspani in New York, Rich McKay in Atlanta and Keith Coffman in Denver; Writing by Maria Caspani; Editing by Donna Bryson and Alistair Bell
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