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Juneteenth serves as a reminder

Juneteenth, a celebration of the end of slavery in the United States, will be celebrated Saturday.

According to tradition, Juneteenth is observed on June 19 because it was on that date in 1865 that Union soldiers arriving in Galveston, Texas, at the end of the Civil War told African-American slaves there that they were free. No one knows with certainty how long the holiday has been celebrated.

Many Americans still don’t fully understand the importance of Juneteenth, but area residents will have the chance to participate in a couple of events recognizing the day on Saturday.

In Steubenville, Second Baptist Church’s Juneteenth Festival is returning after a one-year absence. It’s scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and will feature vendors, music and other entertainment, as well as information booths. The festival, which began five years ago, will be centered around the church, which is located at 717 Adams St.

In Weirton, St. Peters A.M.E. Church will sponsor its first Juneteenth celebration from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Weirton Event Center. The event will offer food and an afternoon of music.

Ours is a nation based on the fundamental truth that all people are free. We view it as a God-given right.

But the United States, despite what was written in the Declaration of Independence, was not founded on the basis of liberty for all. Millions of African-Americans remained in slavery after we became a country.

That was a terrible, ugly stain on this nation — but, as historians understand, compromising with slave states when the Constitution was written in 1787 and ratified in 1788 probably was the only way the young republic could survive.

It was not until the Civil War that Americans confronted the evil of slavery head-on. And, with President Abraham Lincoln leading the way through the Emancipation Proclamation, Americans finally abolished slavery through the 13th Amendment, in 1865.

For too long after that, bigotry remained common in our country. It still rears its ugly head too frequently, and we must continue to work toward the day when that will end forever.

But Juneteenth celebrates the time when we as a nation — we Americans — declared institutional discrimination had no place in our land. We as a people agreed that, at long last, it was time to live up to the words of the Declaration of Independence.

That is something worth recognizing.

Juneteenth should be celebrated by all Americans — as a way to mark an important day in our nation’s history and as a reminder there remains a lot of work that needs to be done.

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