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Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021

Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory or an acceptance of the way things are. It’s a celebration of progress. It’san affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history. Change is possible and there is still so much work to do.”

— Former President Barack Obama

By Tara Yilmaz

→ Did you know President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, announcing that all persons held as slaves within the rebellious areas are and henceforward shall be free? The first paragraph of the proclamation states, "That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.” Even with this act of humanity, slaves were not set free in the Confederacy until the Union Army was able to come in and take over. On June 18, 1865, the Union Army arrived in Galveston, Texas. The next day, June 19th, Gen. Gordon Granger announced that the slaves in Texas were free by order of the president of the United States.

While most people think of Juneteenth as the day the enslaved were free, Michael Carlisle, Mentoring Chairman of the 100 Black Men of Western Pennsylvania shares his perspective. “When most of us think of Juneteenth. They think about our freedom from a historical standpoint. However, being physically free without being mentally free is not real freedom. I believe that was the prayer of our ancestors who passed during the middle passage.”

→ Did you know Juneteenth is not an African-American holiday but an American holiday? Juneteenth is a federally recognized holiday in the United States. Legislation establishing the holiday was passed by Congress on June 16, 2021, and signed into law by U.S. President Joe Biden the following day. It is often referred to as our country’s second Independence Day. From 2021 forward more people across the nation are celebrating “Freedom Day.” The reason being, from the mass media attention that Juneteenth has been receiving, allowing more Americans to become familiar with the history behind the newest American holiday. Lauren Simmons of Beechview reflects on her past and current experience with Juneteenth.

“To be honest, I didn’t know much about Juneteenth holiday in the early 90s-2000s. I attended a few Juneteenth concerts but was not aware of the history behind it. But now since more information has become readily available, I truly appreciate the significance and the sacrifices that were made in the name of freedom.”

→ Did you know Pittsburgh’s 2023 Juneteenth Homecoming Celebration will have a hip-hop legend perform? KRS-One, an acronym for “Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone," will take the stage at Point State Park on Friday, June 16 at 8 p.m. The leader of Boogie Down Productions is by far one of the most influential politically-conscious hip-hop artists of the 80s and 90s. With hits such as “The Bridge is Over," “Self- Destruction,” and “Love is Gonna Get Cha” I’m sure the 80s and 90s babies will relish in nostalgia as they listen to the golden era of hip-hop. Other exciting performers like Sammie Deleon African-Cuban Band, KeKe Wyatt and many more will entertain Pittsburghers. For more information on the 2023 Pittsburgh Juneteenth celebrations, go to for the event schedule.

→ Did you know that locally, in McKees Rocks, Focus on Renewal is hosting "Road to Freedom" a Juneteenth celebration? The event will be held from noon to 6 p.m. at the green space diagonal from the Father Ryan Arts Center, 420 Chartiers Ave. Invents include scavenger hunt, cake walks, church hat/headwrap contest, and a foot race.



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