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Toledoans describe meaning of Juneteenth

Community members at the city's third annual Juneteenth celebration explain what the holiday means to them.
Credit: Chase Bachman
Toledo's third annual Juneteenth Celebration at Walbridge Park, 2022.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Today marks one year since Juneteenth became a federal holiday. Sunday commemorates the day in 1865 when some 250,000 enslaved people learned of their emancipation, 2 months after the war ended and 2 years after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

Toledoans celebrated Juneteenth, otherwise known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, at the city's third annual festival at Walbridge Park.

"Two years after slavery was done, in Galveston, Texas, a troop finally came and told people they had been freed," said community activist Jodie Summers. "It's essentially like we are in this world now: you're never free until somebody tells you that you are. They literally didn't know, so this is our independence day."

Celebrations continued yearly through 1980, when Texas declared it a holiday.

 It wasn't recognized on the national level until 2021, when President Joe Biden declared it to be federal holiday. 

Some consider it to be America's true Independence Day, when everyone could prosper.

RELATED: Black Americans living abroad reflect on Juneteenth

"Unity, prosperity, and love. That's my message from Juneteenth. Unity, love, and prosperity," said activist Ricardo Sampson.

People say it is a day of togetherness; a time for all Americans to celebrate freedom.

RELATED: Juneteenth celebration grows in Bowling Green

"The message for Juneteenth should be love and unity. Being able to understand. Understand your culture, and your heritage, your history as an a American," said Sheik Chris Gray El.

Juneteenth is both a federal and state holiday in Ohio. Wall Street, the post office, and most government offices will be closed Monday.    

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