On June 19, 1865, enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, finally learned they had been freed.

That’s when Major General Gordon Granger announced the end of slavery in accordance with President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.

That was nearly two and a half years after Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation, and two months after Robert E. Lee surrendered his army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia.

Although the Juneteenth holiday has been sacred to many Black communities since then, it took an act of Congress and the signature of President Joe Biden in 2021 to make it an official holiday.

And at 10 a.m. Sunday, June 23, at Les Gove Park, Auburn again kicks its collective heels to celebrate the end of slavery in the United States with a community concert from Ghanaian drum team Anokye Agofomma, and a plethora of other performers. From about noon to 1 p.m., participants will hear from Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus, Gwen Allen-Carston, executive director of Kent Black Action Commission, author Evan Cook, Senator John Lovick, community member Daris Burton, and Anokye Agofomma, a world-traveled drum group led by Ghanaian master drummer Yaw Amponsah, featuring drumming styles from the Asante region of Ghana.

For the kids, there’ll be free bouncy houses, face painting, balloon animals, a photo booth, giveaways, and plenty of opportunities to support Black-owned businesses. There’ll be more than 100 food and craft vendors, including the Original Phillys, Spooky Dogs, Soul Fusion, Delfino’s Chicago Style Pizza, and more.

“Juneteenth in Auburn has become an annual tradition at Les Gove Park, and a holiday many in our community look forward to each year,” said Brenda Goodson-Moore, the City of Auburn’s Chief Equity Officer. “This holiday is about recognizing our history and the emancipation of Black Americans across the country, state, and cities in our region. I’m so excited for our community to experience our citywide celebration, together.”

The Auburn Farmers Market gets going at the same time near the same place, just down the pathway at Les Gove on the southern end of the park.

“I’m excited to celebrate alongside our community for the third year in a row,” said Backus. “Juneteenth isn’t only a uniquely American holiday – Auburn’s history is intertwined with stories of African Americans struggling for equality and justice. And that struggle persists today. This event is to honor the struggles of the past, celebrate the triumphs of the present, and inspire hope for the future.”

In 2021, the U.S. Congress passed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day and making the day a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. The Act was signed into law by President Biden on June 17, 2021.

The second annual Juneteenth flag raising was held June 17 at Auburn City Hall. Photos courtesy of City of Auburn

The second annual Juneteenth flag raising was held June 17 at Auburn City Hall. Photos courtesy of City of Auburn