TAMPA, Fla. — Slavery in the land that we know today as the United States began in 1619 when European settlers brought in African slaves to exploit them for free labor.
From then until the 1800s millions of Africans were brought to the new world for that very reason. But, the country eventually became bitterly divided over slavery which was among several issues that triggered the civil war. As that war dragged on, President Abraham Lincoln was looking for a way to hit the South hard.
An abolitionist at heart, on January 1, 1863, he released the Emancipation Proclamation that formally freed the slaves. But, they weren't actually freed right away.
The North and South would keep fighting for another two years. In April 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered. Less than a week later President Lincoln was assassinated.
Two months after that, Major General Gordon Granger marched union troops to Galveston, Texas to finally enforce emancipation. That day was June 19th, 1865!
For the slaves, the news was met with a range of emotions from pure shock to widespread celebration. The holiday lost some of its popularity in the early 1900s but saw a resurgence during the Civil Rights Movement.
Fast forward to 1980--that's when Texas made Juneteenth an official state holiday. In 1991, Florida became the second state to make it a holiday. It is celebrated in African-American communities across the country with parades, BBQs and festivals.
There are several ways to celebrate Juneteenth across the Tampa Bay area:
- St. Pete Peace Protest: 2 p.m.- 7 p.m. Williams Park, Fourth Street and First Avenue N, St. Petersburg
- Family Friendly BLM Kids March: 10:30 a.m.- 12:30 p.m. Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, 600 North Ashley Drive, Tampa
- Alpha Phi Alpha Peace March: 4 p.m.- 5 p.m. Chillura Courtyard, 600 E Kennedy Blvd, Tampa
- Juneteenth: Celebrating Freedom: The museum celebrates with food and a "big reveal." 9:30 a.m.-12pm. Free. Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum, 2240 Ninth Ave. S, St. Petersburg.
- Juneteenth Celebration: Tampa Bay Juneteenth Coalition is hosting a cookout with free food, music and raffles. Masks appreciated. Free. 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday. Kings Forest Park, 8008 E Chelsea St., Tampa.
- BLM Business Expo: A Juneteenth event celebrating and supporting Black owned businesses features up to 100 vendor booths, food and a wig sale. Masks required and social distancing will be enforced. Free.
- Miss Tampa Bay Juneteenth Coalition Pageant: Streamed over Facebook Live. 6 p.m.
- Juneteenth Music Festival: Musical performances, live podcasts, virtual dance competitions, and comedy routines. Live at juneteenthmusicfestival.com. Free. 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday.
- Juneteenth Celebration: Children’s Day at the Museum: Children can learn about the Emancipation Proclamation through educational activities, book readings and video talks. “Childrens Day at the Museum” on Eventbrite. 10 a.m. Friday.