DENVER — The annual Juneteenth Music Festival is returning to Denver’s Five Points neighborhood June 18 and 19, and this year’s celebration comes with added significance.
This year’s free-to-attend street festival will be the first in Denver since Juneteenth became a federal holiday, and the first since Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed a bill making it a state holiday.
“Our 2022 festival is distinctly special as it's also the state’s first paid holiday honoring Juneteenth,” said Norman Harris, president of the Juneteenth Music Festival, in a news release. “It’s a momentous milestone in our historical recognition as African Americans and as such we’ve got an even bigger range of free programming and activities for all the family.”
Juneteenth started with the freed slaves of Galveston, Texas more than 150 years ago. Though the Emancipation Proclamation freed enslaved people in the South in 1863, the proclamation was not enforced in many places in the South, including Texas, until after the Civil War ended in 1865. Until then, many enslaved people were unaware of what happened in the Civil War or the fact that they should have been freed.
On June 19, 1865, Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger and his troops arrived at Galveston. Granger brought with him General Order No. 3 which read, in part, “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
The following year, the now-free people of Texas began celebrating Juneteenth. For a long time, the holiday was predominantly recognized in Texas, but eventually spread across the nation as Black Texans moved outside the state.
According to the Denver Public Library, Denver’s Juneteenth celebration began in the early 1950s “and eventually grew to be one of the nation’s largest celebrations of its kind.” It was in the 1980s that the celebration moved to Five Points. The Juneteenth Music Festival as we know it today started in 2012. Rocky Mountain PBS is one of the sponsors of this year's celebration.