Parades, picnics and lessons in history were offered Saturday to commemorate Juneteenth in the U.S., a day that carried even more significance after Congress and President Joe Biden created a federal holiday to observe the end of slavery.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, two months after the Confederacy had surrendered. It was about 2 1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in Southern states.
Biden on Thursday signed a bill creating Juneteenth National Independence Day. Since June 19 fell on a Saturday, the government observed the holiday Friday. At least nine states have designated it in law as an official paid state holiday, all but one acting after George Floyd was killed last year in Minneapolis.
Juneteenth celebrations took place across the Twin Cities and around Minnesota on Saturday. At Bethune Park in Minneapolis, people wrote messages on kites — "Black Lives Matter," "Freedom," "Justice," "Unity" — and flew them on the picture-perfect June day.
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Kids played pick-up basketball during the celebration at Phelps Field Park in Minneapolis. Families made chalk drawings and enjoyed snow cones in the Seward neighborhood.
Some celebrations in the Twin Cities included COVID-19 vaccination clinics, part of efforts to get the vaccine to communities who haven’t yet had easy access to it.
In St. Paul, dignitaries including Mayor Melvin Carter, Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan gathered on the holiday to look to the future while remembering the past.
They dedicated a garden in the Rondo neighborhood, once the heart of St. Paul's Black community, that was torn apart by the construction of Interstate 94 starting in the 1950s.
The nonprofit Rebuilding Together Twin Cities received a $150,000 grant from Republic Services to create the community garden at the Rondo Commemorative Plaza.
Organizers said they see Saturday's garden dedication and tree planting ceremony as a way to keep the area's historic past alive.
Carter and his mother, Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter, dedicated a family tree at the plaza. Their original family home in Rondo was destroyed as part of the interstate construction.
Efforts are underway to create a 20-acre land bridge over I-94 to reconnect the north and south sides of the Rondo community.