Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Celebrates Juneteenth in New Way

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Today in some deep south states is the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth. Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of the ending of slavery. It began on June 19th, 1865, after Union soldiers finally got word to Texas that slavery had ended — almost 3 years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute normally hosts a festival, but for this particular anniversary members decided to do something different.

This year, officials at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and at the Equal Justice Initiative decided to take the Juneteenth celebration in a different direction. Instead of the music, food vendors and contests of the past, they held a press conference featuring speakers including BCRI President and CEO Priscilla Cooper. BCRI Outreach Coordinator Samuel Pugh says the conference’s purpose was encourage conversation and education about Juneteenth’s history for this 150th anniversary.

“It’s one thing to celebrate something,” he says,  “It’s one thing to have a party about something, but it’s something else when you get the knowledge of why you are celebrating.”

Educational programs for Juneteenth will continue Saturday at BCRI with a movie screening of “Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slaves Narratives,” and a performance by the Make It Happen theater group.