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It's time to celebrate Juneteenth

The festival honors the end of slavery and will include music, dancing and re-enactments.

Published June 14, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG - President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, but many Southern slaves didn't learn of it until two years later.

Celebration of Freedom Day, or Juneteenth, began in Texas and now is celebrated in many parts of the country. In Texas, it is celebrated on June 19.

Juneteenth is being observed for the 15th year in St. Petersburg. Saturday's celebration at Campbell Park is being organized by Jeanie Blue and about 100 volunteers.

"I was first introduced to the Freedom Day celebration when I lived in Houston, Texas. I moved back to Florida in 1987, and there was no Juneteenth celebration, and I used to talk to my friends and colleagues about it," Blue said.

The festival will include gospel music, dancing, medical screenings, face painting, vendors and re-enactments.

Blue said attendees also can make drums from 3-gallon plastic containers.

Children will be given a free coloring book, All Slaves Are Free, Juneteenth Coloring Book, created by local artist Khnum Gakou.

Blue said there are several reasons to commemorate Juneteenth.

"One being it's commemorating freedom from illegal captivity," she said. "This keeps everybody reminded that America was built on the backs of the enslaved Africans."

Last year, in his Juneteenth message, President Bush noted that when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger led Union soldiers into Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, he brought news that the Civil War had ended and that the Emancipation Proclamation, signed more than two years earlier, had declared all slaves to be free.

"Emancipation demonstrated our country's belief in liberty and equality for every citizen, and was a profound recognition that each and every American has rights, dignity and matchless value," he said.

"As we mark the anniversary of the end of servitude, we also recognize the many contributions of African-Americans to our culture. African-Americans have helped shape our country's character, enhanced the diversity that makes America strong, and contributed to the vitality, success and prosperity of our nation."

[Last modified June 14, 2006, 07:54:28]

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