Juneteenth: A Celebration of Community in Denver

Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom, specifically the freedom slaves in Texas did not begin to enjoy until June 19, 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. The U.S. Army had to force Texan planters to free their slaves, and that war after the Civil War (and after the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment ending slavery) lasted until 1866.

Juneteenth 2015 3

Some people think that slaves in Texas didn’t know they were free. They did. In Texas, though, whites outnumbered blacks, and so it was easier for whites to continue to enforce slavery.

Juneteenth 2015 5

I had never heard of Juneteenth until I moved to the Denver metro area, and I didn’t attend the celebrations in Five Points until 2009. Then it seemed like a low-key party for Denver’s African American community, and I wondered why it didn’t attract the same crowds I saw at other festivals.

Juneteenth 2015 8

According to one of the entrepreneurs who founded the Juneteenth Music Festival (its current incarnation), when he was a child, Juneteenth went on for a week. In the 1980s it was the largest such festival in the United States, but violence at the festival during the 1990s reduced its popularity.

Juneteenth 2015 (1)

This year June 19 was one of the hottest days of spring, and I got sunburned while I was photographing the parade. I went home after the parade to get out of the sun and came back for dinner.

Juneteenth 2015 13

I had BBQ and ice cream and enjoyed the dance party.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

*My husband and I are leaving Denver in September to travel to several Pacific countries.