Pittsburgh’s first Juneteenth celebration kicked off in 2013, but only 35 people showed up.
That’s the recollection of organizer William Marshall.
“Maybe we had about 35 people altogether, and 10 of them were family members, so that was about 25 people,” Marshall said.
He says that’s because most people understood very little about Juneteenth.
“There was really just a resistance about Juneteenth. We’ve come a long way,” Marshall said.
Not today, as Pennsylvania, Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh declare Juneteenth a holiday, giving government workers the day off on Friday.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden signed legislation making Juneteenth a new federal holiday. It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983.
This weekend, events are planned throughout the city, but Marshall says it is also an opportunity for the public to gain a sense of education about the Juneteenth origin.
“America’s independence really has no significant meaning for African American people,” Marshall says with regards to Juneteenth being compared to the Fourth of July. “In 1776, when Europeans won their freedom from British rule, they kept Black people as slaves, Americans that is, so we were not free. We did not gain our freedom until 1865, after the Civil War.”
Click here for a list of events from Visit Pittsburgh.