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Juneteenth celebration continues throughout city

Did you know that Juneteenth may soon become a federal holiday? Congress only approved a bill to make Juneteenth the 12th federal holiday this month, which President Joe Biden is expected to pass. It will be known as Juneteenth National Independence Day.

Photos by Connor Gority
Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Theresa Kail Smith and Pastor D delivering the Juneteenth Proclomation.

Did you know Juneteenth, also known as “Freedom Day,” is a holiday that celebrates the emancipation of the last enslaved African Americans in Texas? Juneteenth is the commemoration of June 19, 1865, when Union Army Major Gen. Gordon Granger announced General Order No.3 abolishing the enslavement of African Americans with the pronouncement that "all slaves are free." The order called for "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.”

Did you know President Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862, nearly three years before Texas adopted the law while seeking to rejoin the union? Many confederate states were reluctant to abide by the proclamation and maintain separatism from the union. Historians are divided on the reason it took so long for the enslaved to learn of their freedom. Some blame the lack of adequate communication, while others suspect slave owners held steadfast to their belief that African Americans were ¾ of man and considered them property that were not entitled to freedom. Other states such as Kentucky and Delaware did not abolish slavery until Dec. 6, 1865, when the 13th Amendment became law.

Dancers from Kulture Dance Academy in McKees Rocks performed at a June 12 event in celebration of Juneteenth. 

Did you know Sylvester Magee was the last living emancipated slave? Magee was claimed on May 29, 1841, and died on Oct. 15, 1971, 50 years ago. Local news coverage WJTV in Foxworth, Miss, states Magee was 20 years old during the Civil War. He was forced to be an arms bearer for the confederates but escaped to the Union Army.

Did you know upon learning of their newly found freedom, the liberated Texans migrated nationwide and kept the tradition of celebrating Juneteenth? There are many ways to honor their ancestors’ emancipation. Americans often observe the holiday by spending time with family, friends and their community. Many partake in barbecues, parades, parties, live entertainment and fireworks. Red soda pop is traditionally drunk during Juneteenth to pay tribute to the blood that was spilled in the name of freedom.

Young dancer with the Sam Kufu African Dance Team.

Did you know that in Pittsburgh, Juneteenth is being celebrated through June 27 around the city? The city's District Two hosted the Juneteenth celebration kick-off on June 12 at Chartiers City Park. The celebration continues as follows:

June 24: Pittsburgh Black Music Festival - Jazz Day, Point State Park

June 25: Pittsburgh Black Music Festival - Gospel Day, Point State Park

June 26: Juneteenth Grand Jubilee Parade, Downtown Pittsburgh

June 26: Pittsburgh Black Music Festival - RnB Day, Point State Park

June 27: Pittsburgh Black Music Festival - Soul Day, Point State Park

For more information on Pittsburgh's Black Music Festival, visit


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