Juneteenth Celebration Kicks Off in Fort Smith
A Juneteenth celebration got underway this weekend in a commemoration marking the end of slavery.
The Juneteenth holiday dates back to 1865 when on June 19, Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended and those who were enslaved were free.
In 2006, the Arkansas Legislature recognized Juneteenth as a state memorial day. Now, families gather for events like these in Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley.
On Saturday, the celebration kicked off at Summer Jam in Fort Smith, even though the actual Juneteenth holiday is 10 days away.
“We’re just kind of kicking off and getting into the spirit for events that are happening in the next week,” said volunteer Mayaneisha Johnson. “We have some well-known artists coming, just trying to get everybody out to have a good time and be one big happy community.”
Organizers hope they can instill in the community the importance of the commemoration.
“The Emancipation Proclamation was signed somewhere between June 18 and June 19,” said organizer Andre Good. “The date wasn’t exact…when General Gordon Granger landed in Galveston, Texas, and announced that slavery had ended.”
Johnson says the holiday is an important reminder of how times have changed.