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Iowa City celebrates Juneteenth with series of events, including block party

Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 4:52 AM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - The Iowa City City Council declared Juneteenth an official city holiday earlier this week.

Iowa City and Johnson County have events planned throughout the week leading up to and throughout June 19.

Thelma Thomas and Shirley Wright of T&S Shirts were one of several booths set up for the Juneteenth block party in downtown Iowa City on Thursday. They say they grew up celebrating Juneteenth in Colorado, but that changed when they moved to Iowa.

“We didn’t celebrate Juneteenth anymore, like, cause well, they didn’t do anything,” Thomas said. “So it’s really exciting. We’re teaching our kids about it, teaching everyone else about it that doesn’t know about it. Cause I didn’t know a lot of people just didn’t know about Juneteenth.

Dozens of people came to celebrate on Thursday with crafts, games, food, and a history lesson. Now also a federal holiday, the history of Juneteenth dates back to June 19th, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas.

“We are at a place in our nation where Juneteenth means something to our entire history. Because it is American History,” Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague said.

Thomas said she hopes Juneteenth being declared a federal holiday will encourage more people to learn about its roots.

“Now people are understanding, there is a lot of history us Black people do have, so it’s exciting,” Thomas said.

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