Juneteenth is an Oregon State Holiday

By: Tanya Kramer

On June 1, 2021, the Oregon Senate passed House Bill 2168. This State Bill makes Juneteenth an official state holiday on every June 19th starting in 2022. 

This Bill acknowledges Oregon’s racist roots, the freedom of slaves, and celebrates Black Americans’ accomplishments both in our history as well as the present day.

Juneteenth is a historical marker of when the last slaves received the news that the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and every slave was informed of their freedom, on June 19, 1865. On this date, Union General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas to provide the news of freedom to more than 250,000 enslaved African Americans in Texas The House Bill 2168 recognizes Clara Peoples as key to Oregon recognizing Juneteenth. 

Clara Peoples, sometimes referred to as the “Mother of Juneteenth”, was from Moskogee, Oklahoma. She came to Vanport, Oregon to work in the town’s shipyards. She was surprised to learn from her Black co-workers that many of them had never heard of Juneteenth. 

On June 19, 1945, Clara Peoples hosted one of the Portland area’s first Juneteenth picnics for hundreds of shipyard employees. Over the years she continued to find ways to celebrate Juneteenth and in 1972, Peoples and another person named Ora Lee Green organized Portland’s first Juneteenth parade and public celebration, which has continued ever since. 

Peoples passed away at the age of 89 on October 5, 2015. However, her work continues with her family. Her niece took over the Juneteenth planning in 2011 and her granddaughter has continued this work since 2015. The yearly parade was renamed in 2015, the Clara Peoples Freedom Parade in her memory and honor. The “Juneteenth Oregon” Non-profit was established to carry on Clara Peoples passion and legacy to always embrace this important history.

To learn more about how to enjoy this historical Clara Peoples Freedom Parade for Juneteenth in 2024. Click on this link for more information.

As Oregon Senator Lew Frederick said during his Oregon Senate signing of the bill, “Celebrating Juneteenth will help each of us remember all that we can and must do to ensure a more just Future.”