Last year, Governor Tom Wolf declared June 19th as Juneteenth National Freedom Day in Pennsylvania. Chester County, home to Brandywine Health Foundation, also recognized Juneteenth as an official holiday in 2020, and several events have been planned this year to promote local community engagement while celebrating the abolishment of slavery in the United States.
As we celebrate Juneteenth at home in the greater Coatesville area, and the first anniversary of Juneteenth National Freedom Day in our state, we also pause to observe the significance of this important date for our nation as a whole. In the Governor’s own words, “This is a moment to honor African American history and reflect on how each of us can promote equality, liberty and justice for all people.”
Juneteenth: A Brief History
When President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, 1863, enslaved people in Confederate states were finally declared free. With a war still being fought and a nation divided, actual freedom did not happen overnight.
As noted on Governor Wolf’s website, “Juneteenth, a portmanteau of June and nineteenth, marks June 19, 1865, when union soldiers reached Galveston, Texas, the furthest point in the south, with news of the end of the Civil War. Slaves were previously unaware they had been freed more than two years earlier when President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, or that Confederate General Robert E. Lee had surrendered in Virginia two months earlier.”
Bringing rightful freedom that was long overdue, over 250,000 enslaved Black people were liberated on June 19th. Months later, on December 6th, 1865, the 13th Amendment passed and officially abolished slavery in the United States.
Juneteenth In America Today
While Juneteenth has been celebrated annually by Black Americans since the late 1800s, the recent protests over police brutality and social injustice have brought nationwide awareness to the holiday in recent years. Today, Juneteenth celebrations in the United States involve prayer, music, feasts, and an appreciation of African American history and culture. We are also seeing an increased effort to educate at the national level and through local community engagement.
Juneteenth At Home
At home in the state of Pennsylvania, events have been planned in honor of Juneteenth National Freedom Day, including the Chester County Juneteenth Festival. Like a month-long celebration of independence, more than three dozen happenings and activities have been planned for the weeks of June 12th through July 5th, 2021. Highlights include nationally-known keynote speakers, performances, and tours of significant sites throughout the greater Coatesville community and surrounding areas. For more information, click here.
Another special event for 2021, the Throwback Block Party, will take place this June 19th at Palmer Park, located on 9th Avenue in Coatesville, PA. This community celebration will run from 2PM – 8PM, with food, vendors, a DJ, a commemorative photo booth, Double Dutch and live performances. There will also be bounce houses and face painting for the kids. Hope to see you there!
Brandywine Health Foundation wishes you and yours a very happy Juneteenth!
Brandywine Health Foundation is a philanthropic organization striving to advance a more equitable, resilient and healthy community for all residents of the Greater Coatesville area. We pursue our mission through funding and running programs and services to improve the health and development of children, teens, and families in the Coatesville Area School District. We also provide funding to non-profit organizations and scholarships to students who need our help most. 100% of contributions go directly to those in need.