Editor's note: This story was updated at 10:50 a.m. on June 11 to include Josephine Sculpture Park and Focus On Race Relations Frankfort as organizers.
Although President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862, news of Black slaves’ freedom came at different times for those living in the American South. In fact, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865 — about two months after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered in Appomattox, Virginia — that Union Gen. Gordon Granger brought the news to African Americans in Galveston, Texas.
The original freedom celebration turned into an annual event and grew in popularity over the years to become Juneteenth — a holiday to commemorate the end of slavery in the U.S.
Texas became the first state to designate June 19 as a holiday in 1980. In the time since, 45 other states have officially marked the day. Yet, it wasn’t until 2005 that Kentucky recognized Juneteenth National Freedom Day to “encourage all Kentuckians celebrating this day to honor and reflect on the significant roles that African-Americans have played in the history of the United States.”
Currently, there is a push to make Juneteenth a national holiday. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, has backed the cause, and several online petitions calling for the change are circulating.
Local organizations Josephine Sculpture Park and Focus On Race Relations Frankfort with Together Frankfort as supporting partner are urging Sen. Mitch McConnell, Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Andy Barr to support HR 7232 — legislation that would make June 19 a national holiday. Together Frankfort has also enacted a resolution endorsing the measure and is encouraging other elected officials, groups and individuals to do the same.
We believe that June 19, 1865, was a significant day for African Americans and the history of our country and should be recognized as a holiday across the U.S. in the same way we mark another important independence day — July 4.
For those who want to know more about Juneteenth, the organizations have two events planned this month. "What is Juneteenth?" will be held virtually at 2 p.m. on June 19 on the Josephine Sculpture Park Facebook page and Frankfort Plant Board Cable 10. At 7 p.m., a roundtable discussion, poetry and music is scheduled at the Grand Theatre. Seats are limited and the event will be livestreamed on the theater’s Facebook page.