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Delaware Headlines

Delaware kicks off Juneteenth celebrations

Juneteenth Flag 2022
Quinn Kirkpatrick
/
Delaware Public Media

The 2022 Juneteenth flag raising ceremony began with the voice of Niyel Cheriss Johnson, who sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a poem and hymn also often called "The Black National Anthem.”

Celebrated each June 19th, Juneteenth is a commemoration of the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States.

Delaweareans have celebrated Juneteenth in the First State for decades, though it was only recognized as an official holiday in the year 2000, 21 years before President Biden recognized June 19, 2021, as Juneteenth Day of Observance. Governor Carney also signed Executive Order 40 in June of 2020, which declared June 19th to be a legal holiday, where public offices of the state subject to the governor’s authority would be closed.

Juneteenth celebrates the anniversary of the day the last group of enslaved people in the United States were informed they were legally emancipated.

While the Emancipation Proclamation was issued January 1, 1863, it wasn’t until June 19th, 1865, 2 years after the Proclamation and 2 months after the Civil War ended, that Gen. Gordon Granger delivered the message to the enslaved people of Galveston, Texas that they were free.

Juneteenth Flag 2022
Quinn Kirkpatrick
/
Delaware Public Media

Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester spoke at the 2022 Juneteenth flag raising ceremony. She said while Delaware is fortunate to have leadership that has pushed the education of Juneteenth for decades before the rest of the nation, there is much work to be done across the country. Blunt Rochester recognized the recent mass shooting at the Buffalo supermarket that was formally recognized as a racist hate crime, according to police, as well as the constriction of voting rights in the state of Texas, where Juneteenth originated.

And she says that right now, with everything going across the nation, it is especially important this year to remember what Juneteenth represents.

“Even in this moment we need to know our history, which is important, and then use that to leverage the movement that we make in the future, toward those principles and ideals of justice, freedom, and peace,” said Blunt Rochester.

The Juneteenth flag raising ceremony is the first of many Juneteenth events this month that seek to both celebrate the holiday and educate the public on its significance.

Sylvia Lewis-Harris is the president of the Delaware Juneteenth Association. She says while Juneteenth is about celebration, it’s also about education - including recent legislative efforts to teach Black history to students.

“198 was designed to make sure that Black history was taught in the schools, which means, ultimately means, Juneteenth will be taught in the schools," said Lewis-Harris. "So, we will be instrumental in getting that Juneteenth history to the school districts, or to the Department of Education, so they’ll be able to get it to everyone who needs it. And again, it’s not just Black history, it’s American history.”

She emphasized that Delaware was ahead of much of the nation when it came to recognizing and celebrating Juneteenth. This year was no different - with Delaware the first state to host a flag raising ceremony.

More information about the holiday, and this month’s events can be found at delawarejuneteenth.org.