The history of Juneteenth
NEW YORK (WENY) -- The celebration of Juneteenth started in 1866. The June 19 celebration memorialized the day that the last African American slave learned of their freedom. 1866 is two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by former President Abraham Lincoln.
While celebrated locally for generations, this will be the second year Juneteenth is celebrated as a national holiday.
"That's absolutely wonderful. It certainly acknowledges the fact that slavery existed. It further acknowledges the fact that it ended and, that it's being acknowledged by the federal government gives it further... credence to the fact that it happened," said Wilbur Aldridge, regional director for Mid Hudson, Westchester NAACP.
Scholars are not too certain on an exact date the last slave heard of their freedom, but they know it happened somewhere in the 'teens' of June. Choosing from dates between June 13 and June 19, the nation has chosen June 19 to celebrate.
"We're celebrating the fact... that we are able to say... that it existed, but it no longer exists in this country," Aldridge said.
Aldridge believes that this is a holiday for all Americans.
"If you are an American, it is a celebration of America doing the right thing. So who, regardless to what nationality... what race you are, if you are an American, you need to celebrate the rightness of it. And the fact that something that was despicable ended," said Aldridge.
Locally, the Elmira-Corning NAACP is hosting an event Saturday at Ernie Davis Park in Elmira from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Elmira-Corning's Juneteenth Freedom Day will feature food, music, artists, exhibitors and vendors from across the Twin Tiers.