What Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday means to those in Southwest Florida

Juneteenth is now a federal holiday, thanks to a new bill signed by President Biden on Thursday. The holiday marks June 19, 1865 when some of the last slaves were freed in Galveston, Texas. That was two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

Celebrations have been taking place since the law was signed.

January 1, 1863 is the date that Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. It was the day slaves legally were freed.

But, in those days information traveled slowly. Slaves in remote areas like Galveston, Texas were among the last to find out.

Charles Barnes is the Chairman of the Lee County Black History Society. “It took 2 1/2 years for the message to get there,” Barnes said.

June 19, 1865 is the day that Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston to tell slaves that they were no longer enslaved.

“I can imagine the pride in the jubilation that here we are free now but we could have been free actually three years ago,” Barnes said. “Then the following year they started celebrating Juneteenth, celebrating their freedom.”

It took until 2021 for the United States of America to celebrate Juneteenth as a nation. A federal holiday that is now meaningful to so many.

“I think it’s another way of a showing the value of what we represent in this country, how we suffered, how we propelled through those years of slavery and Jim Crow law,” Barnes said.

Sherrelle Findley is the Director of the Multicultural and Leadership Development Center at FGCU. “It actually showcases all of the progress we’ve made and all of the progress that we have yet to get through,” Findley said.

The celebration at FGCU began a day early with a Juneteenth cookout.

“It’s just for us, again, the black community and our allies to just celebrate our people,” Findley said.

They’re celebrating freedom and hoping for a better future.

The Lee County Black History Society says each state has its own Emancipation Day. In Florida, that day is May 20.

Below is a list of Juneteenth celebrations across Southwest Florida:

  • Juneteenth Celebration at Edison Mall

Come celebrate Juneteenth with us. Please come visit with some local nonprofits in the area from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Family-friendly and child-centered activities of music, arts & crafts, inspirational stories and giveaways from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Please register and join us!

Saturday, June 19th from 11 a.m. -4 p.m.
  • Juneteenth Celebration Community Day
Saturday, June 19th from 11 a.m. -6 p.m. at Harlem Tree Park
  • Celebrating Freedom: ACOSWFL 2021 Juneteenth Celebration
Sunday, June 20th from 1 p.m. -6 p.m. at Lakes Park
  • Botanical Brewing Taproom

To honor Juneteenth we are having a celebration of the arts from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Botanical Brewing Taproom in Cape Coral, FL

Enjoy musicians, singers, poets, dancers and artists in a relaxing and comfortable atmosphere.

We will be featuring #blackownedbusiness and entrepreneurs. Vendor slots still available https://www.facebook.com/events/3931843586935738/?acontext=%7B%22event_action_history%22%3A[%7B%22mechanism%22%3A%22search_results%22%2C%22surface%22%3A%22search%22%7D]%7D

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Drew Hill
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