Juneteenth may have only recently become a national holiday, but the day has been celebrated for more than 150 years.
In fact, Juneteenth – which takes place on June 19 – is the oldest commemoration of the end of slavery in the U.S.
According to Juneteenth.com, the holiday “commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement.”
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Juneteenth celebrations also often include barbecues, music, prayer services and other events – including the Miss Juneteenth Pageant.
According to NBC News, the decades-old Miss Juneteenth Pageant in Fort Worth, Texas, is more than just a pageant. Participants compete for a scholarship to a historically Black college or university, and are given the chance to promote Juneteenth and commemorate the historic day, NBC reported.
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Andrea Sledge, the director of the Fort Worth Miss Juneteenth Pageant, told NBC: “This is more than a pageant.”
“It’s an opportunity for character-building, self-esteem building and helping the girls cultivate what they want to do with their lives post-high-school and beyond,” Sledge said.
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“This is literally like watching these girls blossom,” Sledge added. “They come to you in their shells, and they’re shy. They’re not really sure of themselves. They’re quiet. Then the lights come on and something happens when their excellence is put on a platform for all to see.”
According to NBC, other Miss Juneteenth pageants have been launched in recent years in other areas of Texas as well as other states.
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The first National Miss Juneteenth Pageant was held in Tennessee last year, NBC reported. Saniya Gay, Delaware’s Miss Juneteenth, won the national title.
This year, 16-year-old Precious Maku was crowned Miss Juneteenth in the Fort Worth pageant, which was held earlier this month.
She told NBC that when she and her family first moved to Fort Worth two years ago, she didn’t know much about Juneteenth, so she started researching the holiday. When a teacher recommended she look into the Miss Juneteenth pageant, she decided to enter and won.
“It’s not like me to enter a pageant and win,” Maku told NBC. “I’m still processing everything. Like, I’m Miss Juneteenth!”