Hundreds of North Texans gathered this weekend at Finch Park in McKinney to celebrate Juneteenth, a historic day of emancipation in Texas and now a federal holiday, with comedians, poets, and musicians.

Special guest Zae Romeo from NBC’s The Voice also made an appearance.

In a June 19 press release, event organizer Empress Drane, McKinney city secretary, pointed out that social initiatives have raised awareness to the importance of diversity, equality, and inclusion. Now more than 460 companies, including Capital One, recognize Juneteenth as an official company holiday. President Joe Biden followed in their footsteps on Friday and declared Juneteenth a federal holiday.

“Juneteenth seems very appropriate to magnify,” Drane said.

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Juneteenth has been known by many names over the years: Jubilee Day, Black Independence Day, Emancipation Day. It is considered the day when slaves were finally freed in Texas on June 19, 1865, two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation that declared the end to slavery.

Of course, it took a Union general — Gordon Granger — and 2,000 federal troops to convince the state.

The Union general, according to the Texas Historical Commission, read General Order No. 3 shortly after he arrived in Galveston and took command of the troops:

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

General Order No. 3, Union General Gordon Granger | Texas Historical Commission

A year later, the Juneteenth celebrations began which, according to the THC, “included a prayer service, speakers with inspirational messages, reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, stories from former slaves, food, red soda water, games, rodeos, and dances.”

In McKinney, the Juneteenth celebrations used to take place at the Run, McKinney’s oldest Black neighborhood, but then moved next door to Finch Park in the 1970s, a McKinney spokesperson pointed out in the June 19 press release.

McKinney Mayor George Fuller encouraged residents to attend the celebration because he said he believed it was a moment to build unity in the community.

“Juneteenth is a day about liberty and freedom, ideals that we all should celebrate,” Mayor Fuller said. “Even though our country was nearly 90 years old, for many, Juneteenth was the first marker of personal freedom.”

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