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Celebrating Juneteenth Amid Broader Recognition and Acceptance

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Friday is Juneteenth.  The holiday has long been celebrated by African Americans.

And this year, it’s getting more recognition and broader acceptance.

Emancipation came to enslaved Africans in Richmond on April 3rd, 1865. But it wasn’t until months later that those still held in bondage in the westernmost Confederate state of Texas learned of their liberation. 

"At least in terms of institutional enslavement, June 19th or Juneteenth marks a time when African people enslaved in America were finally free," explains Janine Bell.  She  leads the Elegba Folklore Society in Richmond, where she’s holding her annual commemoration on Saturday. This year’s event will bring rituals, music, and theatrical performances broadcast online. 

The virtual version is a break from tradition, she admits.  "But we got virtual hugs and we have virtual empowerment and we have virtual joy."

Bell says Juneteenth 2020 marks a time where people are forming new communities and reexamining their values. "So now, take the time to contemplate how we’ve gotten to where we are."

We’re not responsible for what happened in the past, she says, but we are responsible for what happens now.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

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