Philly’s Universal Juneteenth Festival to return for third year

Juneteenth is almost here. The holiday marking the freeing of slaves of African descent kidnapped from their native lands and forced into servitude in the United States will be celebrated by the Philadelphia Community of Leaders (PCOL) on June 22-23, 2018.

This year, PCOL’s celebration stretches over two days. It will begin Friday, June 22 with a wreath laying ceremony at Independence Mall at 6th and Market streets in honor of the ancestors who were enslaved in the US, and continue with a parade in Center City and Festival at Penn’s Landing on June 23.

It’s the third year PCOL is organizing a Juneteenth celebration, building on the success of 2017’s celebration that attracted a crowd of thousands, and dignitaries involving two kings from Ghana and many local officials.

If you go

The Universal Juneteenth Festival Musicfest and Parade will run June 22-23.

June 22:

5:30 p.m.: An “honoring the ancestors wreath ceremony” will be held at Independence Mall, 6th and Market streets. There will be music and entertainment.

June 23:

12 p.m.: Juneteenth Parade kicks off at 15th and JFK, wraps around City Hall and heads to Penn’s Landing.

2-8 p.m.: Juneteenth Musicfest & Parade at Penn’s Landing, one of PECO’s Multicultural Festivals, with a marketplace, children’s village, music and other performances.

History of Juneteenth

On September 22, 1862, at the height of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation – legally designating all African-American slaves in the Confederacy “free” under federal law, effective Jan. 1, 1863. Slavery was still legal in the north until the signing of the 13th Amendment in 1865.

With the Civil War still raging, many slaves did not go free until after the Confederacy’s defeat was made official with the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee on June 2, 1865.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day the Union troops entered Galveston, Texas, and read aloud a proclamation to the city, including many slaves who were learning for the first time of their freedom and celebrated in the streets.

In the ensuing decades, Juneteenth has gradually risen to greater prominence as a national holiday nationwide, spreading to the north along with the Great Migration of former slaves leaving southern states. In recent years, it has become a Philadelphia staple, with not one but two Juneteenth festivals. Historic Germantown and the Johnson House Historic Site, whch was a stop on the Underground Railroad, held their Juneteenth festival in Northwest Philly on June 16.

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