Juneteenth, a 155-year-old holiday, is getting more recognition in Charlotte

Updated: Jun. 16, 2020 at 11:37 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - One holiday that probably wasn’t highlighted much in your history classes is getting extra attention this year. Juneteenth is a day to remember and celebrate the date when slavery ended for all black Americans.

On Tuesday, the Carolina Panthers’ front office announced that their offices will be closed this Friday in honor of the holiday which is a first for the organization. The Juneteenth holiday is getting more attention this year – in part because of the many Black Lives Matter protests.

Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was supposed to free all slaves in 1863. The news didn’t reach all of them until nearly two years later – June 19, 1865. A day that is now celebrated as Juneteenth.

“It’s not taught in schools,” said Witnie Martinez, the Vice President of Institutional Advancement at the Harvey B. Gantt Center.

Martinez is trying to change that. It’s her mission to make sure you know about it and why it’s so important.

“Sometimes we shield our children away from stories that really matter. Kids, little Black boys and girls, they need to know their History. And you know what? The little White girls and boys, they need to know the Black History as well,” she said.

Recent protests are becoming a platform for more History lessons. The current fight for justice and equality can be compared to the movement started in the 1950s over of forced segregation of Black people and white people.

“We see history repeating itself,” said Martinez.

The focus on history means more celebrations are being planned in Charlotte than in previous years.

“I think the shift is huge and I think it’s a necessary one. You see a lot of corporations coming out and saying, ‘Hey, you know what? We’re making Juneteenth a company-wide celebration this year,” she added.

Nike, LendingTree, the Carolina Panthers, and the rest of the NFL are companies and organizations that are now officially recognizing the day with holiday pay or time off.

“To those corporations, I say it’s about time, but I also say thank you. Because we know that’s the work that needs to take place in order to change the way that justice is seen,” Martinez said.

The Harvey B Gantt Center will be hosting an online lesson about Juneteenth on Friday from 3 p.m. - 4 p.m.

Other holiday events:

-Friday, June 19th

  • Freedom March at First Ward Park 1 p.m. - 3 p.m.
  • Reiki & Meditation Juneteenth at Dupp & Swat 1 p.m.
  • Juneteenth Celebration of Freedom, Restoration & Black Culture at 291 Dairy Barn Ln, Fort Mill, SC 3 p.m - 9 p.m.
  • Juneteenth Box at Macfly 4 p.m.
  • Juneteenth Drive-Thru Celebration on Beatties Ford Road 6 p.m.

-Saturday, June 20th

  • Juneteenth Block Party at 2848 Queen City Drive 12 p.m.

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