President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862 to declare slaves their freedom in areas under the Confederate control, including Florida. Freedom from slavery took effect January 1, 1863. This date is known as “Jubilee Day”.
In Racine, Juneteenth will be celebrated Saturday, June 13, 2009, starting at noon.
Commissioner Donnie Snow, Director of Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services, says the event serves several purposes. “It reminds us (African-Americans) of our history-bring the community together-and is a symbol of pride.”
Since 1980, Juneteenth has been an official state holiday in Texas. It is considered a “partial staffing holiday” meaning that state offices do not close but some employees will be using a floating holiday to take the day off. Twelve other states list it as an official holiday, including Arkansas, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Alaska. In California, Governor Schwarzenegger proclaimed June 19 “Juneteenth” on June 19, 2005, however, some states, such as Connecticut, do not consider it a legal holiday and do not close government offices in observance of this occasion. Its informal observance has spread to some other states, with a few celebrations even taking place in other countries.
As of May 2009, 31 states and the District of Columbia have recognized Juneteenth as either a state holiday or state holiday observance; these include Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.
Although the City of Racine is one of the major sponsors of Juneteenth in Racine, it is not considered a legal holiday.
Juneteenth as we know it in Racine started in the early 70’s by the Muslim community and was called “Family Day.” The earlier Juneteenth was kicked-off with a parade from City Hall to the Dr. John Bryant Center festival grounds.
In the 80’s, a Juneteenth cultural pageant was added to the festivities. Shannon Pegues was the first Miss Juneteenth in 1983. She said, “Today it is hard to recruit young ladies for such an endeavor.” Pegues feels the pageant would be a great instrument to educate young women about their past and build self esteem.
This year’s event is expected to attract several thousand festivalgoers and over 100 vendors.