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Black History Month facts: Juneteenth celebration has long history in Buffalo

It was made a Federal holiday in 2021, but has been celebrated in Buffalo for over 40 years.
Credit: Karys Belger

BUFFALO, N.Y. — During the month of February, 2 On Your Side will be highlighting facts about the African American community in Western New York for Black History Month.

While Juneteenth was made a federal holiday shortly before the holiday occurred last year, the holiday has been celebrated in Buffalo for many more years.

Juneteenth is the celebration of when the last enslaved people down in Texas were given the news that they were free on June 19, 1865. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, so it took over two and a half years for the news to get to enslaved people in further parts of the South.

While the holiday was celebrated starting with that first year, an official celebration in Buffalo wasn't established until over 100 years later.

In 1976, the Juneteenth Festival of Buffalo was started by B.U.I.L.D. as an alternative celebration to the nation's Bicentennial celebration, according to Juneteenth of Buffalo Festival.


✨You can learn more about Buffalo’s Juneteenth festival through the link in our bio ✨#juneteenth #wgrz2 #wny #buffalo #blackhistorymonth #blackhistory

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These celebrations started on Jefferson Avenue, where many Black businesses were at the time. Jennifer Earle Jones, the president of Juneteenth Inc., also known as Juneteenth of Buffalo, remembers when this first celebration was held.

"It was before a lot of the businesses on Jefferson were gone," Jones told 2 On Your Side back in June.

The holiday is now celebrated at Martin Luther King Jr. Park where the event has more space for the food, vendors, entertainment and celebrations.

For some in the Black community in Buffalo, Juneteenth is their own independence day. 

"Juneteenth was a given. We understood that Juneteenth was our Independence Day not necessarily the Fourth of July,"  Kent Olden told 2 On Your Side back in June of 2021. Olden celebrates the holiday in place of the Fourth of July.

For the past few years the celebration has been held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Follow the Channel 2 TikTok page for more videos throughout the month.

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