Juneteenth is the annual commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States, taking place on June 19th.
Taking its name from "June" and "nineteenth," Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 that enslaved people in Texas were finally informed they were free, and that the Civil War had ended. This message — delivered by Union solders in Galveston, TX — reached them a full two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863.
Here in the Bay Area, San Francisco's Juneteenth celebration has traditionally been one of the largest gatherings of African Americans in California every year. The city's 2019 Juneteenth parade was named in honor of Rachel Townsend, a leader in San Francisco's Black community who died of sudden illness in 2018. Townsend was active in San Francisco and Oakland politics and fought to keep Juneteenth in San Francisco despite the city's shrinking Black population.
"The Juneteenth festival wouldn't have even happened all of those years had it not been for Rachel Townsend," said San Francisco Mayor London Breed in December 2018. That's when the city rededicated a Western Addition affordable housing complex after Townsend, honoring her work in the community.
Townsend attended her first Juneteenth when she was three. Even as a kid, her father said she was a leader with a big heart. One of the things she was most proud of was her work at a local San Francisco church, working with young girls without fathers. She campaigned for Black local candidates like London Breed, advocating for diverse political representation.