Juneteenth: Celebrating American history and its relation to the end of slavery.
EUGENE, Ore. - You may have noticed Juneteenth marked on your phone calendars on June 19th.
Well, it's an American holiday, and it commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the state of Texas, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation given by former President Abraham Lincoln.
This announcement was given on June 19th, 1865, and before it, many slaves at the time did not know they were free.
On Tuesday evening, the Eugene Springfield NAACP and the St. Marks Christian Methodist Episcopal church joined together to celebrate Juneteenth.
Organizers said the day is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.
They said it is an important day for the community to reflect on the history of the United States, especially in relation to the African American population.
"I think that we can't shy away from our history," said President of the Eugene Springfield NAACP, Eric Richardson. "But, we need to talk about it and learn what we can from those lessons, and try to apply that as we move forward."
"We have to definitely recognize that we've had the good fortune from what our generations have done in the past, past generations and others, to know that this was on their shoulders for us and we have to continue.," said Billy Fields, Pastor of the St. Mark C.M.E. Church.
Fields and Richardson were talking about continuing growth as a community.
Several community members joined the celebration Tuesday evening. People we spoke with said they hope the celebration and awareness continues to grow in the Eugene community.
"We no longer call people property, we no longer have the institution of slavery," said Lisa Ponder, now a Lane County resident but lived in Texas when Juneteenth became a state holiday in Texas. "Yes, there's more to do, yes there's more injustice, but we have to keep remembering how all those changes came about."
"We really need to have a group consciousness about what that meant on that day and make it more real than it is," said Debbie Bernhard, also a community member.
"Our country has such a difficult history to overcome," said visiting community member, Sydney Kissinger. "And the fact that we can all get together with this consciousness in mind of what this historically means I think is really important."
For more information on the NAACP, or for other events the organization will hold on future dates, visit their website at naacplanecounty.org.
And for more information on the St. Mark C.M.E. Church, click the link for their website.