The Fourth of July is still a couple of weeks away, but on June 19, Utahns are celebrating our country’s second independence day.
This year, Juneteenth became a state holiday in Utah after Gov. Spencer Cox signed a law sponsored by Rep. Sandra Hollins, the first Black woman to serve in the Utah Legislature. This followed legislation that declared Juneteenth a federal holiday, which Joe Biden signed in 2021. Juneteenth has been celebrated by many Black Americans for decades, but the holiday gained broader recognition in 2020, after the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others ignited widespread protests and increased attention toward racial injustice.
Juneteenth celebrates emancipation from slavery. Though the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, it could not be enforced in the Confederate-controlled states. When the Civil War ended in 1865, Texas, the farthest west state in the Confederacy, was the last state to officially end slavery—on June 19, 1865, Union general Gordon Granger told enslaved people in Galveston, Texas that the Civil War was over and that they were free. Since the end of the Civil War, the anniversary has been a local celebration of the end of slavery. Over time, Juneteenth expanded across the country, becoming a larger celebration of Black history and culture in the U.S.
Betty Sawyer, the Director of the African-American community group Project Success Coalition, led Utah’s first Juneteenth celebration 32 years ago. Sawyer and the Ogden-based Project Success Coalition still organize the Utah Juneteenth Festival, which this year includes a flag raising at the Salt Lake County Government Center, a three-day festival in Ogden and other community events throughout the month. Here are Juneteenth celebrations presented by the Project Success Coalition and other ways to honor Juneteenth this weekend and month in Utah:
WHAT: Salt Lake County Juneteenth Celebration
WHERE: Salt Lake County Government Center, SLC
WHEN: June 17, 11:30 a.m.
WHAT: Utah Juneteenth Celebration
WHERE: Ogden City Amphitheater, Ogden
WHEN: June 18, 12-9 p.m.
WHAT: Millcreek Skate Night
WHERE: Millcreek Common, Millcreek
WHEN: June 19, 5-10 p.m.
WHAT: Juneteenth Black Women’s Mural Project Unveiling with Better Days Utah
WHERE: 444 E. 600 South, SLC
WHEN: June 27
WHAT: North Salt Lake Juneteenth Celebration
WHERE: Legacy Park, North Salt Lake
WHEN: June 27, 5-8 p.m.
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