Thursday is Juneteenth, one of the oldest celebrations of the end of slavery in the United States.
The Juneteenth holiday commemorates the day slaves in Texas finally learned they were free -- a full two years after the Emancipation Proclamation became law.
This year is the 179th celebration of Juneteenth and Daughters of Mary Magdelene will hold their annual festival in Savannah.
Marilyn Jackson, the founder and president of the Daughters of Mary Magdelene, says it’s important to celebrate the end of slavery just like other events in American history.
“Everybody needs to know that is our liberation day. It is parallel to the Fourth of July, when American got its freedom from Great Britain.”
This year, she says, is particularly significant.
“The fact that this is the 179th celebration is really important because after the slaves died out, their heirs took it over and kept it going,” Jackson told the Savannah Morning News.
The Saturday ceremony will also honor African American leaders who’ve had a positive impact on their communities.
Jackson says considering the dark history of slavery and Jim Crow, it’s especially important to celebrate the accomplishments of black Americans.
“Most of us have a negative connotation attached to our race, but we have done great things for the United States.”
The day-long event is free and open to the public.
In Atlanta, the Atlanta History center will host a two day Juneteenth celebration which will also commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and the 50th anniversary of the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Guests at the celebration will also have the chance to see The Kinsey Collection, a national touring exhibit of artifacts, books, and documents that tell the often unheard stories of African American history.
“There are stories that made America. And then there were stories that America made up. And much of American History was made up,” historian and collection owner Bernard Kinsey told GPB’s “On The Story” in May.
Kinsey says the collection speaks to the story of American history that renders African Americans invisible.
“The concept we speak to is called the myth of absence,” said Kinsey. “The myth of absence says specifically that we are invisibly present. Which means ‘we’re there, we’re not part of the story.”
The Atlanta History Center Juneteeth celebration will run all day from June 21 to June 22. Admission is free and open to the public.