U.S. House passes measure making Juneteenth a federal holiday as Memphis prepares for annual festival

Updated: Jun. 16, 2021 at 10:57 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The United States will soon have a new federal holiday.

Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in this nation.

The Senate approved the bill Tuesday and late Wednesday night, the U.S. House voted to make Juneteenth Freedom Day, the 12th federal holiday.

Observed on June 19, Juneteenth commemorates when the last enslaved African Americans in Texas learned they were free. It was June 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in Southern states.

Memphis will celebrate the bill’s passing at the 28th annual Juneteenth Festival this weekend at Health Sciences Park in the Medical District. For more than a century, this park was the final resting place for Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife. Their remains were removed last week.

Festival organizers say this year’s event holds extra meaning.

“We are a city that loves and wants unity,” said Telisa Franklin, Memphis Juneteenth Festival president. “And so it’s going to take white people, black people, Chinese people. I don’t care what your culture is, what your background is. Juneteenth means freedom and you are free. Who the Son sets free is free indeed.”

This will also be the first year Juneteenth is a paid holiday for Shelby County government employees. This decision was made last year.

The Juneteenth festival kicks off Friday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is free. There will be live music, food trucks and free COVID-19 vaccinations being offered to the public.

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