PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Juneteenth celebrations are kicking off around the Philadelphia region. June 19 marks the emancipation of enslaved African Americans after the Civil War. 

It’s also about history and connection. 

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“Combine June 19 with June,” Gary Shepherd said.   

It’s short for the holiday Juneteenth.  

“It’s also known as True Freedom Day,” Shepherd said.     

It’s a day that recognizes June 19, 1865, as the day slavery ended in the United States after the Civil War.  

Juneteenth Celebrations Underway In Philadelphia Region

Shepherd is the president of the Pennsylvania Juneteenth initiative. Last year’s rally was a proud moment for Shephard.

“When I was growing up and I was taking history classes in school, in high school and college, Juneteenth was never ever mentioned,” Shepherd said. 

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Delaware Gov. John Carney agrees. 

“I didn’t know anything about Black history,” Carney said. “I didn’t know much about Black history until I took a course in college.”

A year ago, Carney enacted Bill 198, which ensures the education of Black history to include Juneteenth.  

To kick off the season of Juneteenth, flag raising ceremonies were held in the Tri-State area. Camden Mayor Vic Carstarphen says it’s important to celebrate traditions dating back to the 1800s.  

Juneteenth Celebrations Underway In Philadelphia Region

“African Americans are just coming together to celebrate, hundreds and hundreds of vendors will be here, live music, we’ll have the world-renowned trombonist Jeff Bradshaw coming. We will have a parade here,” Carstarphen said.

Back in Philly, Shepherd is busy preparing for this year’s festivities that he promises will not fall short of a good time. 

“This June 19 is the first time it’s an official holiday on the actual day,” Shepherd said.  

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Stay with CBS3 as we celebrate Juneteenth. We will have continuing coverage as the holiday approaches on TV, online and on our streaming service CBS News Philly. For more on our Juneteenth coverage, visit CBSPhilly.com/Juneteenth

Wakisha Bailey