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St. Louis ready to celebrate Juneteenth today

"Juneteenth is not just a holiday for African Americans. It's an American holiday," Dr. Andre Smith said

ST. LOUIS — Since the 21st century began, Juneteenth has been celebrated in most major cities across the country.

The event, also known as Freedom Day and Jubilee Day, celebrates June 19, 1865. That's the day Texas officially abolished slavery in America, two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

"I'm excited this year because there's a lot more awareness about Juneteenth," said Lewis Reed, president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.

Despite the fact Congress has yet to recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday, Reed said the state holiday has become more popular.

"It's a significant event for America and it certainly should be celebrated," Reed said.

RELATED: These states now recognize Juneteenth, but what are their other holidays?

On Friday afternoon, Reed, other city and county leaders, neighborhood groups and hundreds of citizens will turn out for the "Juneteenth Ride For Freedom."

The participants will meet in the Schnucks parking lot near Union and Natural Bridge, decorate their cars and then trek through the north side neighborhood for a car parade.

For years, the Board of Aldermen has hosted a Juneteenth celebration at City Hall, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year they'll practice social distancing and cruise in a car parade instead.

"I've celebrated Juneteenth every year for as long as I can remember," Reed said.

RELATED: Juneteenth celebrations in the St. Louis area

"It speaks to our national history," said Dr. Andre Smith, chair of the Social Science Department at Harris Stowe State University.

Smith hopes everyone will embrace the history and the celebrations of Juneteenth.

"It's important. Juneteenth is not jut a holiday for African Americans. It's an American holiday," Smith said.

RELATED: St. Louis officially designates June 19 as 'Juneteenth Day'

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