Carla Mendez | Staff Writer 

Juneteenth, the oldest celebration commemorating the abolition of slavery in the United States, has yet to be officially recognized in Florida. 

Juneteenth marks the true abolition of slavery in the United States, representing liberation for the last enslaved African-Americans in Texas on June 19, 1865–two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed into law. 

Florida International University’s Juneteenth celebrations kick off on June 10 and extend through to the official holiday on Wednesday, June 19.

Juneteenth celebrates African-American independence and triumphs while encouraging perpetual growth and empowerment within the community. 

Following the Reconstruction era at the end of the 1870’s in the United States, efforts to establish African American communities were often violently attacked by those seeking to restore pre-Civil Rights power structures. Despite this, Juneteenth festivities maintained an established practice into the 21th century. 

Fast forward 11 decades to 2016, 94-year old activist Opal Lee from Fort Worth, Texas, took action against Juneteenth’s lack of recognition as an official holiday. Lee walked two and a half miles every day to signify the delay in emancipatory news reaching Texas as she traveled from her home to Washington, D.C. to campaign for the cause. 1,400 miles walked and 1.5 million signatures taken to Congress proved Lee’s campaign to be successful and President Biden signed legislation, making Juneteenth a federal holiday. 

Yet, Florida does not observe Juneteenth as a state holiday. Meaning, it is not a paid holiday off in Florida, despite being recognized as the 12th federal state holiday.

On Wednesday, June 19, 2024, all non-essential federal government offices will be closed, but the state offices in Florida will be operating as usual.

Still, the South Florida neighborhood is getting ready for vibrant festivities. The “The Juneteenth Experience” performance will kick off Miami Beach’s celebrations on Tuesday, June 18, at 7 p.m. This year marks the fifth consecutive year of citywide remembrance.

Until June 23, events will take place, concluding in Florida International University’s “Harlem Renaissance and the Tropics” event at The Wolfsonian. These festivities, which range from movie screenings to jazz evenings, capture the essence of Juneteenth and its importance in the community.

FIU began their week of remembrance and festivities on June 10 with a “Women of the Struggle” gallery viewing at the Graham Center pit.

The university’s fourth annual Juneteenth commemorations will conclude with a closing ceremony on June 19 at 11 a.m. at the WUC Panther Square at the BBC campus.

Although Juneteenth is a federal holiday, Florida’s lack of recognition highlights a disparity in awareness.

Even so, colorful celebrations throughout South Florida showcase the community’s commitment to honoring the important day and its deep history of African-American liberation and empowerment.