"Celebrating Juneteenth: Emancipation Day" - a WABC-TV special on the holiday

WABC logo
Monday, June 19, 2023
Celebrating Juneteenth: Emancipation Day
Opal Lee, 'grandmother of Juneteenth,' featured in WABC-TV special on the holiday.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- This year marks the 157th anniversary of Juneteenth, the holiday that recognizes the first day of freedom for enslaved Africans in Texas and commemorates the end of slavery in the United States as a whole.

Opal Lee, heralded as the "grandmother of Juneteenth," is featured in WABC-TV's special, "Celebrating Juneteenth: Emancipation Day," hosted by Eyewitness News anchor Sade Baderinwa.

Lee talks with Eyewitness News anchor and "Here & Now" host Sandra Bookman about what the activist considers to be her greatest accomplishment - making Juneteenth a federal holiday.

Lee is a 96-year-old retired teacher from Texas, who spent years rallying people to join her in a push for a day to commemorate the end of slavery.

And in 2021, her lifelong dream became a reality.

And she tells us she plans to walk two and a half miles on Juneteenth to spread the message, that Juneteenth means freedom.

Plus, Eyewitness News reporter Darla Miles -- born and raised in Texas - reflects on the big influence Lee had on her life.

Juneteenth is also a time to spend time with family and friends, and share a meal.

The foods you'll find at a celebration are symbolic. Melba Wilson, the queen of comfort food, invites us into her kitchen to cook up her favorite prosperity food and explain the importance of the color red. Eyewitness News anchor Shirleen Allicot gives us the tour.

Juneteenth isn't the only holiday that honors Black history. We also have the story of Pinkster and a group keeping the tradition alive through dance.

Here in New York City, thousands of people are expected for the 14th annual Juneteenth festival in Brooklyn. The festivities kick off on Friday for three days of music, art, and skits.

But it's more than a celebration. Organizers want New Yorkers to know their history and highlight Black-owned businesses right here in the five boroughs. We'll have a report.

Plus, we examine the significance of the Juneteenth flag and a good deal more in our special available in the player above.