City commemorates Juneteenth, the day the last remaining slaves were freed

Justin Udo
June 19, 2018 - 7:36 pm
To commemorate Freedom Day, as it is also known, the Seaport Museum brought in speakers, drummers and historians to tell the stories of enslaved and freed African-Americans.

Justin Udo | KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, a presidential order granting freedom to the country's more than 3.5 million enslaved African-Americans.

Although Lincoln proclaimed the law, slavery was still indeed commonplace throughout the country.

"It took years for word to travel," said Michael Flynn, vice president of interpretation and visitor experience for the Independence Seaport Museum, "and of course given the social conditions of the time, Southerners didn't want to spread the word about slavery no longer being legal, so it took so long for the last slave to hear that. This date is very, very significant."

The day when the news of freedom finally reached the last slaves in Texas was June 19, 1865, or Juneteenth.

"Juneteenth is something that a lot of people don't know about that they really should," Flynn added.

To commemorate Freedom Day, as it is also known, the Seaport Museum brought in speakers, drummers and historians to tell the stories of enslaved and freed African-Americans.

"What you're seeing is the reinvigoration of a celebration that is very, very old," explained a museum guide. "There is a lot of history here to be learned, and there is a tremendous amount to be celebrated. ... Unless you can touch a shackle that was used on someone, it's just mythology to you."

There will be other Juneteenth celebrations throughout Philadelphia this week, including parades, marches and a celebration at Penn's Landing.