PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Today is Juneteenth, an official holiday in the City of Philadelphia, commemorating the end of slavery in America. A march was held Friday as those taking part made their way from 52nd Street and Girard Avenue to Malcolm X Park.
Organizers say they wanted the event to represent love, positivity and freedom.
The African American Museum in Philadelphia has been closed for months because of the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s finding new ways to commemorate Juneteenth.
“It commemorates the day 155 years ago, in 1865, when purportedly the last enslaved Africans in Gavelston, Texas, finally received word of President [Abraham] Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation,” said Ivan Henderson, with the African American Museum in Philadelphia.
The day usually entails hundreds of visitors flowing through the museum to see special exhibits, hear music and take part in arts and crafts. While that can’t happen in-person this year, it will still happen virtually.
“Through this virtual experience, we’re going to start out the day with some arts and crafts for our youngest folks, an opportunity to make a Juneteenth flag and find out what the symbols and colors mean, followed by a history lesson for those young folks,” Henderson said.
Reenactors, poetry, readings and a musical celebration will round out the virtual experience. The shuttered museum houses poignant art exhibits that are still relevant today, chronicling the history of civil unrest captured years ago in the fight for racial equality.
While the museum has suffered an economic blow because of the shutdown, officials say the virtual setting it’s created to celebrate Juneteenth will open up more visitors from around the country.
“Since we’ve started planning this, every week we’ve had renewed motivation and had a new reason why we must continue,” Henderson said. “Even when the doors closed and the budget shrunk, the meaning and the reason for doing it grew.”
The virtual Juneteenth experience will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday. Click here to find out more.