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Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

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Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

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Juneteenth in Tuscaloosa: A celebration of the Black community’s achievements

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CW / Shelby West
Juneteenth is a federal holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in America.

159 years after the last slaves were declared free in Galveston, Texas, Americans now recognize Juneteenth as a celebration of Black freedom. 

Although the Emancipation Proclamation was passed in 1863, word about slavery ending didn’t reach those in Galveston, Texas, until June 19, 1865, when a Union general arrived to inform the enslaved people of their freedom. 

 In 2022, Walt Maddox, the mayor of Tuscaloosa, issued a proclamation recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday. Alabama became the 40th state to recognize Juneteenth in 2012, and in May, Gov. Kay Ivey designated Juneteenth a state holiday for 2024. It is the fourth year she’s made this designation. 

Elise Bates, a junior majoring in political science, said Juneteenth is a reminder of long-term struggle, freedom and equality. 

“It’s the day that African Americans gained their freedom and began to build their own lives as free people,” Bates said. 

John Foster, a sophomore majoring in anthropology and psychology, said Juneteenth is an important day of celebration because of the impact of Black culture on American culture. 

“As a Black man myself, it’s really Black people’s Independence Day,” Foster said. “It’s Black people’s Fourth of July.”

Local organizations have organized events to celebrate the holiday.

The Tuscaloosa Branch of the NAACP held a parade and celebration in the park Saturday that was free to the public. The NAACP planned a luncheon Wednesday in which UA’s Samory Pruitt, vice president for community affairs, would receive the 2024 NAACP Living Legend Award. This award is presented to a member of the community who has improved the lives of those in the city of Tuscaloosa. 

Lisa Young, the President of Tuscaloosa’s NAACP, wrote that its goal in hosting these Juneteenth events is to educate the community on the holiday’s importance and to promote unity and cultural pride. 

“By providing inclusive and engaging events, we strive to create a space where residents of all backgrounds can come together to reflect, learn, and honor the resilience and contributions of African Americans to our nation,” Young wrote. “Each Juneteenth event we host in Tuscaloosa County is a step forward in fostering a community that upholds the values of equality, respect, and unity.” 

The Juneteenth in Northport Committee is hosting events on June 21 and 22. A fashion show will be hosted June 21 at 4104 Alabama Avenue NE at 7 p.m. A festival with a concert, games for kids and food will be held the next day at the Robert Hasson Community Center beginning at noon. 

Jashira Sullivan, a board member for the Juneteenth in Northport Committee, says that this is the group’s fourth year hosting a festival for Juneteenth. This year, the committee decided to make the festival a two-day event, adding in a fashion show. 

The committee’s main focus is to celebrate Black artists and the fashion world, with all of the models being from Alabama.

“I hope that it is an eye-opening experience into the ways that African American culture has inspired fashion, not just necessarily with urban fashion, but also in the business aspect,” Sullivan said. 

The concert that the committee is holding, Sullivan said, is not just a celebration of Juneteenth, but a way to highlight June being Black Music Month. The committee is also focused on bringing unity to the community through supporting local businesses and promoting grassroot artists. 

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