James Varner, president of the Maine Human Rights Coalition, speaks to a crowd of about 20, at the Chamberlain Freedom Park, celebrating Juneteenth a day early in Brewer on June 18, 2021. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / The Penobscot Times

This Sunday marks the 156th anniversary of Juneteenth, a day that celebrates the liberation of the last Black men, women and children held in slavery in the United States.

On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, where Black men and women finally learned slavery had been abolished — two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the emanicipation proclamation.

The following year, Texas saw the first official Juneteenth — also known as Emancipation Day or Juneteenth Independence Day — celebrations, and they soon spread to other states.

This year’s observance is the second year the holiday has been federally recognized, and the first year it is being observed by many state governments. Nonessential federal government offices and buildings will be closed to observe Juneteenth on Monday, June 20, including the United States Postal Service buildings. While many commercial businesses will remain open on Monday, Target and Best Buy will be closed in observance of the holiday.

Here is a running list of events throughout Maine marking Juneteenth on Sunday:

— Biddeford: A Juneteenth celebration will be held on Sunday at Mechanics Park from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. with music and light refreshments.

— Brunswick: A celebration exploring the meaning of Juneteenth, with music, art and cultural entertainment for all ages, hosted at the Lower Mall on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

— Damariscotta: A Juneteenth celebration will be held from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday with a bring-your-own picnic at Coastal Rivers’ Salt Bay Farm on 110 Belvedere Road, co-hosted by Bee AWARE and Coastal Rivers’ Conservation Trust.

— Ellsworth: A Juneteenth commemoration ceremony will be held from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Knowlton Park on 11 Shore Road on Sunday. The event will feature music, poets, speakers, authors and food.

— Portland: Juneteenth Freedom Celebration held at 200 Anderson St. on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., with food trucks, arts, culture and music entertainment. A celebration will also be held at Congress Square Park on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., with art, music and poetry performances.

— South Portland: A Juneteenth celebration will be held at Mill Creek Park/South Portland Library from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The event will have music and events for people of all ages.

— Wiscasset: An informal bring-your-own picnic and storytelling event to commemorate Juneteenth will be hosted on Wiscasset’s Common from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.

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Leela Stockley

Leela Stockley is an alumna of the University of Maine. She was raised in northern Maine, and loves her cat Wesley, her puppy Percy and staying active in the Maine outdoors.