Bay Area Officials Honor History Behind Juneteenth Holiday

San Francisco City Hall is lit up in the red, green and black colors of the pan-African flag to commemorate Juneteenth on Friday, June 19, 2020, in San Francisco, Calif. as part of ongoing Black Lives Matter protests across the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
Santiago Mejia/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Commemoration of the newest federal holiday began on Friday across the Bay Area, grew on Saturday and will continue on Monday with planned closings at government offices.

June 19 became a federal holiday on Thursday, when President Joe Biden signed a bill that Congress passed earlier in the week. It celebrates the day in 1865 that African Americans in Galveston, Texas, finally learned that President Abraham Lincoln had declared them free two years earlier.

"Today, it is unconscionable to think this happened," said state Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa). "And, like a lot of African American history, including the Tulsa Race Massacre a half-century later, it remains largely unrecognized outside the African American community."

On Friday, a two-year art installation was unveiled in Golden Gate Park honoring the first enslaved people brought to the American colonies, in 1619. And a variety of events in East Palo Alto, Redwood City and Menlo Park honored the historical day.

In Richmond starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, a caravan of decorated vehicles processed to Kennedy High School for a rally and educational program to honor both the holiday and African American members of the class of 2021.

In San Francisco on Saturday, Mayor London Breed called the anniversary a "monumental day." "Growing up as a Black woman in the Fillmore, Juneteenth has always been a special day for me," Breed said in a statement.

"I remember cowboys riding their horses through crowds of performers, both young and old, re-enacting the emancipation of our ancestors…. Juneteenth is not just a reminder of our history of being enslaved and our prolonged struggle for equality; it's a celebration of the contributions Black San Franciscans have made to the City we all love."

And in Berkeley, officials announced that in recognition of Juneteenth, most city services, including summer programs for youth, will not be offered on Monday.

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