Clara Peoples, Mother of Juneteenth in Portland
Clara Peoples, Mother of Junteenth in Portland

Amanda Fritz & Clara Peoples
Amanda Fritz & Clara Peoples

Amanda Fritz, Commissioner, City of Portland
October 26, 2011

Born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, Clara Peoples grew up celebrating Juneteenth each year. The holiday, sometimes called Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is held annually on June 19th. It recognizes the date in 1865 when Major General Gordon Granger read "General Order No. 3," in Galveston, Texas, declaring that all slaves were free. This was two and a half years after President Lincolnís Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863. The surrender of General Lee in April 1865, and the arrival of General Grangerís regiment, finally ended the resistance in Texas, the last holdout.

The Juneteenth holiday varies from region to region, but often involves barbecues, choir performances, traditional songs, parades, historic reenactments, and public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation. Here in Portland, it now includes a parade and community gatherings.... because of the leadership of Mrs. Clara Peoples.

Upon moving to Portland in 1945, Clara Peoples was surprised to learn that the Juneteenth holiday was unknown in this part of the country. She introduced the holiday to her fellow workers at the Kaiser Shipyard, and later helped to initiate Portland's annual citywide Juneteenth celebration in 1972. She has also given years of service as an active and dedicated community leader, helping fight hunger in our community as well as multiple other good works.

In honor of Mrs. Peoples' unwavering support of this holiday, as well as her work in the community as a whole, the 1st Annual Oregon Juneteenth Jazz and Heritage Concert was held on October 25th, 2011. I read a Proclamation declaring Mrs. Peoples the Mother of Juneteenth, from Mayor Adams. Mrs. Peoples is pictured with me in this photo taken at the event by Water Bureau employee and community stalwart Tim Hall.


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