When most Americans think of freedom, they think of next month’s Fourth of July.
But freedom for all came about at a much different date: June 19, 1865, to be specific.
Although the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves held within Union territories and most Confederate territories in January 1863, it took time for freedom to make its way to Texas, the Confederacy’s westernmost territory.
It was not until June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers arrived in Texas to issue the executive decree, that more than 250,000 enslaved peoples would finally be free.
For this reason, June 19 has come to be known, and celebrated, as Juneteenth.
President Joe Biden signed legislation in June 2021 establishing Junteenth as a national holiday.
The newly-established federal holiday was commemorated this past weekend at Centennial Park in Santa Ana, where residents gathered in celebration of the ending of slavery in the United States at the 2023 Juneteenth Festival.
On Saturday, locals enjoyed live musical performances, food, guest speakers and a car show under the sun.
Alongside the entertainment, community organizations provided educational and empowerment resources.
Billy Johnson, 65, believes that the Black community has grown closer within the past few years.
“We only get to acknowledge Black history twice a year… for Black History Month in February and on Juneteenth,” Johnson said. “It’s sad. There needs to be more, but this is a good start.”
“What a lot of people don’t realize is the significance of why Santa Ana is holding a Juneteenth. It is because Black excellence is all around us in Orange County. When you look at black history in Orange County, you have to start with Santa Ana,” he said during his speech.
“Juneteenth is a time of celebration of where we have come from and where we are trying to get to,” Orange County Heritage Council Treasurer Yvette Momothershed said. “It represents freedom for African Americans and the great accomplishments that our ancestors have achieved.”