Juneteenth is the annual celebration of the end of the institution of slavery. Today we give some props to the African-Americans who have built the holiday over the year, including the Texan-turned-San Franciscan who used to don his ten-gallon hat and ride his horse through town as part of the festivities. Plus: if you like celebrations, why not try the Midnight Sun Festival in Nome, Alaska? It’s the kind of party that would go on all night… if they had night this time of year.
What Is Juneteenth? (PBS)
Late to Freedom’s Party, Texans Spread Word of Black Holiday (New York Times)
Emancipation Park (City of Houston, Texas)
Nome Midnight Sun Festival (Alaska.org)
Today is Juneteenth!
It’s the anniversary of the day in 1865 when a Union Major General and his troops landed at Galveston, Texas and announced that the Civil War had long been over, and so was the institution of slavery, legally, if not always literally.
African-American communities have kept Juneteenth celebrations going, against a lot of obstacles.
In the Jim Crow era, black residents of Houston weren’t allowed to use the city’s public spaces for Juneteenth events, so they pooled their money together and bought 10 acres of open land, naming the area Emancipation Park.
Texans who moved elsewhere did their best to spread the word, like a man in San Francisco named Wesley Johnson, who got attention for the local Juneteenth festivities in the 1950s by putting on his ten gallon hat and riding a horse down Fillmore Street.
Today nearly every state formally recognizes Juneteenth.
It also has its own red, white and blue flag, emphasizing that formerly enslaved people and their descendants were and are American.
In the center, creator L.J. Graf put a “bursting ‘new star’, on the horizon.”
Judging by the many events taking place across the country today, Juneteenth is a holiday whose star is rising.
If you want to keep celebrating after everybody else has gone to bed, why not visit Nome, Alaska?
That’s where the annual Midnight Sun Festival is getting underway this weekend.
There’s a 5K race, a softball tournament and a Midnight Sun Parade, all held in the middle of the night, which at this time of year, is still daytime in Nome.
Just because the sun is still out, though, doesn’t make it any warmer.
Keep that in mind if you take part in the annual late night dip in the Bering Sea.