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Clara Peoples Freedom Trail Parade kicks off Juneteenth events in Portland

There were festivities going on all weekend, beginning with a parade through North Portland on Saturday morning.

PORTLAND, Ore. — With many of the COVID-19 precautions that were in place over the last two years now lifted, this year is shaped up to be a big one for Juneteenth in Oregon.

Juneteenth is the annual celebration of slavery's end in the U.S. While President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, it would be 2 1/2 years before the last slaves in the nation were freed.

On June 19, 1865, Union troops entered Galveston, Texas, and delivered news of both the Confederacy's fall and the end of slavery in the Southern states. In Texas, at least, the date became one of celebration for former slaves as early as 1866. The holiday later spread to other communities and states.

Juneteenth didn't become a federally recognized holiday until last year, but some states have recognized it in some form for decades — Texas, in fact, has recognized it as a holiday since 1980. Oregon and Washington both started making moves after the racial justice protests in 2020, with the state holiday becoming effective this year.

RELATED: Despite push, states slow to make Juneteenth a paid holiday

"This is a year of firsts for Juneteenth Oregon," said Heather Coleman-Cox, public relations director with the nonprofit putting on the parade. "It's the first time that we've celebrated on a federal, state and local level."

Juneteenth has its own unique history in Oregon, as explained here by PDX Jazz, sponsors of Juneteenth Oregon this year:

The celebration of Juneteenth Oregon dates back to 1945 when the late and beloved community leader, Clara Peoples, introduced the tradition from Muskogee, Oklahoma, to her co-workers at the Kaiser Shipyards in Portland. Upon moving to Portland in 1945, Clara Peoples was surprised to learn that the Juneteenth holiday was unknown in this part of the country.

Now in its 50th year, Clara helped to initiate Portland’s annual citywide Juneteenth celebration in 1972. 

For more about Juneteenth events and ways you can support, visit the Juneteenth Oregon website.

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