Historic African-American church hosts series of events to honor first official Juneteenth

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Posted at 7:21 AM, Jun 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-19 22:19:49-04

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - The First Baptist Church is honoring the first official Juneteenth holiday after Congress passed a bill, signed into law by President Joe Biden, that made Juneteenth a federal holiday.

The holiday commemorates the freeing of African American slaves after the civil war in 1865. The holiday was first unofficially celebrated in Texas.

The First Baptist Church will host a series of free events on Juneteenth, Saturday, June 19. The day will kick off with a Juneteenth opening ceremony beginning at 10 a.m. The ceremony will be held at Market Square.

The ceremony will be "looking back, looking around, and looking within...demonstrate our commitment to understanding the foundations of inequality and moving forward together."

The opening ceremony is presented in partnership with William & Mary, The Let Freedom Ring Foundation, the City of Williamsburg, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and the faith community.

Other free events will take place at the Playhouse Stage at 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., and there will be a bell-ringing ceremony at the church at 7 p.m. A full detailed list of Juneteenth events can be found here.

The First Baptist Church was also a stop on the mission to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. A woman named Opal Lee visited the church in August 2019 to push efforts on making Juneteenth a federal holiday.

The church has also hosted civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Rosa Parks.