TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – As the House prepares to vote on whether or not to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, local organizations are celebrating and educating the community about Juneteenth.

On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously passed a bill that makes June 19 a federal holiday. It would be known as Juneteenth National Independence Day, which commemorates the end of slavery for all African-Americans in the United States.

“Everybody needs to be educated on who they are and that’s what Juneteenth is all about,” said Pastor Philetha Tucker-Johnson.

Tucker-Johnson is the president of the Tampa Bay Juneteenth Coalition.

“Everybody thinks it’s all about 1863 and 1865, it expands a little more than that,” she said.

Prior to 1865, many thought slaves were already free due to the Emancipation Proclamation being issued by President Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”

However, that wasn’t the case. Two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Major General Gordon Granger learned that slaves were still suffering in Galveston, Texas. On June 19, 1786, Gen. Granger traveled to Galveston and gave the news that the war was over, which officially ended slavery and freed all slaves.

“We’re still rising above all of the hidden history of our culture,” Tucker-Johnson said. “Even after the Emancipation Proclamation, there were states who didn’t even ratify that. The last state to ratify that was Mississippi in 1995 and that didn’t even get certified until 2013. Can you just imagine them being able to hold onto slaves until it was ratified and certified?”

According to Florida Sunshine State Standards, Juneteenth isn’t mentioned or included within school curriculum or school history books. Also, Juneteenth is not part of the AP United States History course. That is the most advanced history course students can take in high school nationwide. 

That’s why the coalition is pushing for education in addition to celebration.

“You hear about the Fourth of July, the Declaration of Independence, but you don’t hear about June 19, 1865. That is African-American’s day of Emancipation,” Pastor Clethen Sutton, the vice-president of TBJC said.

“It’s great to celebrate but if you celebrate and not educate there’s no purpose,” Tucker-Johnson said. “We are kings and queens, we have always been kings and queens, but we were never taught that. Education is power.”

Tampa Bay Juneteenth Celebrations:

  • Miss Juneteenth Pageant – Tampa Bay Juneteenth Coalition – Friday, June 18, 2021 – 5:30 p.m.
  • Ride for Justice – Buffalo Soldiers – Saturday, June 19, 2021 – 9 a.m.
  • The Straz Center Arts Legacy REMIX: Juneteenth Commemoration – 7 p.m.
  • AFROcan Fest – Saturday, June 19 – Tampa Garden Club – 6:19 p.m.
  • Juneteenth Freedom Market – Raymond James Stadium – 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Juneteenth Business Expo – Saturday, June 19 – St. Petersburg – 11 a.m – 5 p.m.

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