NEWPORT NEWS, Va.— The City of Newport News is changing how it celebrates Juneteenth.
For the first time in the 15-year history of its Juneteenth celebration, Newport News is commemorating the holiday with a week’s worth of free educational events.
The celebration kicked off last Saturday and continues with daily events culminating with three separate celebration across the city this Saturday, June 19.
A small group of community members came together for the city’s first Juneteenth Raising of the Flag Ceremony Monday.
The Juneteenth flag now flies next to the state flag of Virginia and the American flag at City Hall in Newport News.
“We want to make sure that we fly this flag high to commemorate all those who died during the Civil War, all of those who were enslaved, and then what the Emancipation Proclamation means for this city and for the whole nation as a whole,” said Vice Mayor Saundra Cherry.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas, and told the last enslaved people they were free two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed those under bondage.
Monday’s ceremony continues Newport News' first weeklong Juneteenth celebration with a focus on education, awareness and commemoration.
“It shows that we are a city that is diverse but willing to accept, willing to acknowledge and willing to commemorate the cultures of others,” said Cherry.
Gov. Ralph Northam declared Juneteenth a new state holiday last year as the country was in turmoil in wake of police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor that reignited conversations about racism, equity and justice in America.
The city says the flag will fly at City Hall for the rest of the week.
A full list of Hampton Roads Juneteenth events can be viewed here.