NORTH READING — The North Reading Human Rights Group will host a celebration of Juneteenth on Monday, June 20 at 11 a.m. at the Ipswich River Park gazebo (by the front entrance).

Juneteenth is a commemoration of the day, June 19, 1865, that enslaved Americans in Galveston Texas first learned of the Emancipation Proclamation over two years after it was issued. In 1863, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which declared more than three million slaves living in the Confederate states to be free. More than two years would pass, however, before the news reached African Americans living in Texas. It was not until Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, that the state’s residents finally learned that slavery had been abolished. The former slaves immediately began to celebrate with prayer, feasting, song, and dance.

The holiday has been celebrated in Texas ever since, has expanded to other states over time, and was made a federal holiday in 2021.

“The day can be viewed both as a commemoration of the end of slavery and also as a day to recommit ourselves to the work of equity, equality, and justice. One purpose of the North Reading Human Rights Group is to create and promote educational and cultural programs to foster understanding and appreciation for diversity,” commented Bill Griffin, a member of the North Reading Human Rights Group. “We invite the community to come learn with us as we celebrate and commemorate this new holiday.”