As a child, San Franciscan Wade Woods saw a man wearing a ten-gallon-hat, riding a white horse down Fillmore Street in the City. That man was Wesley Johnson, Senior, and he is credited with bringing the “Juneteenth Celebration” to San Francisco 63 years ago in 1950. If you have never heard of the “Juneteenth Celebration,” you may be surprised to learn that the San Francisco event gets credit for being one of the oldest and largest celebrations outside of Texas. So what is it?
If you thought that President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was in full effect on January 1, 1863, as told to us in the history books, that was not the case. Not until June 19, 1865 did the news of the abolition of slavery reach Galveston, Texas. The freed slaves started a celebration they named “Juneteeth,” combining June and the date of the 19th. For an update on your US history, check out this documentary trailer:
As for San Francisco, Wade explained that because so many African Americans had arrived from the South and settled in the San Francisco’s Fillmore District after World War II, they brought this Southern celebration with them. In the 1940s and 1950s, the Fillmore was alive with jazz clubs. Wesley Johnson, who had come from Texas, was an entrepreneur and owned the Texas Playhouse Bar. He invited everyone to come to his club and celebrate Juneteenth, and it soon expanded to a neighborhood celebration.
Celebrating Juneteenth was reenergized by the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. San Francisco organizers say, “This year marks the 150th Anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by former President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. It also marks the 50th anniversaries of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (August 28, 1963) where Dr. Martin Luther King gave his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.” Here is Dr. King’s historic speech:
This year’s event is planned for June 15, on Fillmore Street, between Geary and Eddy Streets. Organizers have planned a parade, music, children’s programs, arts and crafts booths and a car show. The details are listed at: