On June 19, 1865, shortly after the Civil War had ended, federal troops marched into Galveston, Texas, to announce that all enslaved people were free. The Emancipation Proclamation set forth by President Abraham Lincoln had been signed two years earlier, but not all were free. That day in history, Juneteenth, is the official end to all slavery in the United States of America. It has been celebrated since and named a federal holiday in 2021.
Professor of Business and Economics at Northampton Community College (NCC) and President and Founder of Juneteenth Lehigh Valley (JLV), Dr. Karen Britt, has helped to organize events to bring awareness and help celebrate in the community. NCC Academic Advisor, Tracie Springer, was also instrumental in publicizing and coordinating events as a member of the Juneteenth Lehigh Valley Steering Committee.
“It begins with celebrating and acknowledging the announcement of liberation; however, it doesn’t end with the announcement. JLV aims to elevate, celebrate, and educate everyone on authentic American history. I use the term authentic because many times the narrative of the Black community is not included in American history. Our story begins with slavery, but it does not end there. We contributed to this nation during slavery and continue to do so into this present day,” says Britt.
Britt started organizing the event in 2020, during the pandemic. The following year, the first Juneteenth celebration was held at ArtsQuest.
“At this time the nation was very polarized due to the murders of George Floyd and Breanna Taylor and countless other incidences throughout the country. JLV recognizes that inequities still exist in this country, but we also need time to infuse faith and hope into the community,” notes Britt.
A variety of events from June 11 – June 19 this year were held including Juneteenth dining experiences in Easton and Bethlehem at The Bayou, events featuring Black authors, artists, and history makers, flag raising ceremonies, and more.
On the 17th, NCC representatives were at the Juneteenth Music Festival at ArtsQuest in Bethlehem. Musicians shared their artistry on three stages, treating the audience to R&B, Soul, Jazz, Reggae, and a special tribute to 50 years of Hip-Hop. Attendees enjoyed delicious cultural food and goods offered by over 40 Black-owned businesses during the festival.
On the 19th, a Juneteenth Parade was held, the first of its kind in the Lehigh Valley bringing together Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton on Northampton Street in Easton.