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Bus Tour Newsletter #21 – June 2022

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On Sunday, June 19, we celebrate Juneteenth, also known as “Freedom Day,” as it commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth is short for “June Nineteenth,” the date that the news of the federal abolition of slavery arrived in Texas in 1865. Juneteenth became an official federal holiday on June 17, 2021. This month’s newsletter highlights the origins of the holiday, its history in Oregon, and ways to celebrate it this year.

History of Juneteenth

On June 19, 1865, federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and ensure all enslaved people were freed. However, their arrival came two long years after the Emancipation Proclamation took effect in 1863. That’s because when it was signed, the Emancipation Proclamation only applied to places under Confederate control – not to slave-holding border states or rebel areas already under Union control. In December of 1865, slavery was formally abolished with the adoption of the 13th Amendment.

In the same way there is a gap between the existence of the Fair Housing Act and the realities of housing justice in the U.S., the gap between the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and the enforcement of the abolition of slavery with the 13th Amendment two years later had major consequences for enslaved people who had no knowledge of abolition. Many slaveholders even kept it a secret from the people they enslaved.

On June 19, 1866, Texas was the first state to celebrate “Jubilee Day,” with festivities including music, barbecues, prayer services, and other activities. Since then, the celebration of Juneteenth has been kept alive at a grassroots level by communities throughout the nation, an especially meaningful celebration to those whose ancestors were enslaved. Texas was the first to declare Juneteenth an official holiday – but not until the year 1980.

While the state of Oregon recognized Juneteenth as a holiday in 2001, 2022 will be the first year that Juneteenth is recognized as a legal state holiday in Oregon. Although it was never legal, slavery did exist in Oregon in the 1800s. However, Juneteenth wasn’t celebrated in Oregon until 1945. In the same way it took time for the news of the abolition of slavery to spread across the nation, the message of the Juneteenth jubilee took many decades to spread from Texas throughout the U.S.

In 1945 Clara Peoples, a Kaiser Shipyard worker originally from Muskogee, Oklahoma, introduced Juneteenth to her coworkers at the shipyard, marking the first celebration of Juneteenth in Oregon. As the granddaughter of enslaved people who lived in Galveston, Texas when the news of abolition arrived, Peoples had a personal reason to spread the culture and heritage of Juneteenth. Peoples went on to found the nonprofit organization, Juneteenth Oregon, under which she organized an annual citywide event in Portland in 1972 that lives on to this day, eventually earning herself the nickname, ‘Mother of Juneteenth’.

Although Peoples passed away in 2015, her granddaughter, Jenelle Jack, continues to keep her legacy alive as the director of Juneteenth Oregon, and has helped to grow the celebration to more than 2,500 people in 2019 (the last in-person celebration held) and testified in support of the Oregon legislation to recognize Juneteenth as a legal state holiday in Oregon.

Clara Peoples, front and center, at a past Juneteenth Oregon celebration. (Source: Juneteenth Oregon website – Photo Gallery – Juneteenth Oregon)

Modern Spirit of Juneteenth

2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the official Juneteenth Oregon celebration. Each year, Juneteenth Oregon’s celebration kicks off with a parade, followed by live music and entertainment, art, food, educational booths, cultural booths, community resources and a children’s play area. They are currently looking for sponsors and volunteers to help with this year’s celebration happening on Sunday, June 19.

Other events happening in Oregon to commemorate Juneteenth this year include:
You can also support Black-owned businesses and eateries throughout the month of June and beyond:
Or get involved with or donate to organizations that support Black communities:

We want to hear from you

Is there a particular topic we discuss on the bus tour that you are interested in learning more about? Does your organization host events related to racial justice or other topics that come up on our bus tour? Email your events and ideas to to have them included in our future newsletters. 

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