Today, blacks across the country will celebrate another independence day — Juneteenth.
"It’s a day every African American should recognize," said LaVon Woods, organizer of Chandler’s 13 th annual Juneteenth celebration, which kicks off Friday. "It’s about our freedom."
Juneteenth commemorates the spontaneous celebration that erupted when slaves in Galveston, Texas, learned for the first time on June 19, 1865, that they were free and that the Civil War was over.
The news — which came almost two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation — was delivered by a union general named Gordon Granger.
"It’s very much a part of Southwestern history," Arizona State University history professor Matthew Whitaker said.
Liberated blacks left Texas to settle in other parts of the country, including Arizona, and brought the Juneteenth celebration with them. Today, Juneteenth is an official holiday in Texas and a number of other states.
Yet despite its significance, Juneteenth is little known east of the Mississippi.
"Americans have a tendency to fail to appreciate it," Whitaker said. "We sort of stay away from the gray consequences of our past. What people fail to realize is the liberating aspect of Juneteenth."
Over the years, Juneteenth has evolved into an opportunity to celebrate not only history, but education and achievement.
Chandler’s Juneteenth extravaganza is the only one in the East Valley.
• Chandler’s Juneteeth Celebration kicks off 7 p.m. Friday with the Miss Juneteeth scholarship competition 7 p.m. at the Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Ave. Free. (480) 899-3022.
• On Saturday, a festival commemorating the end of slavery will feature live entertainment, poetry readings, drama, dancing and food. Events are 5 to 11 p.m. at Folley Park, 601 E. Frye Road, Chandler. Free.
• For information, call (480) 899-3022.