Austin celebrates first Juneteenth as a federal holiday

Juneteenth celebrations happened all across Central Texas to remember the end of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth has always been celebrated in Texas, but this is the first year it is considered a federal holiday.

"The number one word today is freedom," said Cluren Williams, head organizer for the Juneteenth celebration.

Juneteenth was celebrated throughout Austin Saturday, and now across the country after President Biden made Juneteenth an official federal holiday.

"It feels wonderful. This is the first year that it is a national holiday. This is going to be just as big as July 4th and any other holiday that we have and we can actually call it our own. We can home it, we can grow it, we can build off of this, and everybody can also get involved," said Williams.

June 19th, 1865 was the day soldiers arrived in Galveston with news that the Civil War was over and slaves were to be set free. 

Last year, Juneteenth festivities were put on pause due to the pandemic. This year, Juneteenth kicked off with a parade with tons of people ready to watch.



"It warms my heart like I’m tearing up, my voice is cracking right now. It's amazing. It's beautiful. It just warms my heart to see this community out here together and just loving one another like what pandemic? What snowpocalypse?" said Diolanda Lovings, parade goer.

The parade ended at Roosevelt Park where the celebration continued with food, games, and music.

"What I like about the parade here in Austin is the contribution of races: black, white, Hispanic, representing heritage from way back when. I personally have experienced segregation integration because of my years of existence so the Juneteenth parade, in my opinion, is very exceptional," said Clifford Hatch, parade goer.

Travis County also held its own Juneteenth celebration.

"When we think of Juneteenth, we think of tradition, we think of culture, we think of family. This is a special day where we're trying to bring all of those things together," said Jeffrey Travillion,Travis County Commissioner for PCT. 1.