WILMINGTON, N.C. — A Black history hike through Wilmington has kicked off four days of events to mark Juneteenth.

The holiday, historically celebrated June 19, commemorates the declaration of the end of slavery by Union troops arriving in Galveston, Texas, months after the end of the Civil War. Congress passed a law last year making it the newest federal holiday.

The co-chair of Wilmington’s Juneteenth Committee, Abdul Shareef, leads the hike through Wilmington’s streets, reflecting on why Juneteenth is such an important day.

Abdul Shareef guides people through a Black history tour of Wilmington. (Photo: Natalie Mooney)

“To me, it means an opportunity to not just celebrate to be physically free, but in your human dynamic to be what you already knew you were,” Shareef said. “A human being with an opportunity to excel exponentiate your own abilities like everyone else.”

Shareef guides people through many prominent locations such as the Gregory School where Black people were first allowed to begin a formal education in Wilmington, the Gregory Church where the Wilmington Ten protests occurred and some areas that were dedicated to the Insurrection of 1898 when white supremacists overthrew a mostly Black government.

The hike lasts a couple of hours, but Shareef said there’s no shortage of Black history to study in the Port City.

Abdul Shareef is a guide for a Black history tour of Wilmington, which kicks off four days of celebrations to mark the Juneteenth holiday. (Photo: Natalie Mooney)

For Shareef, understanding the worst parts of history is just as important as celebrating the good parts — and a way to help try to create a brighter future.

“History rewards all research and if history is not exposed, taught, expotentiated, the bad things will happen again,” Shareef said. “So history is important because we want the coming generations not to miss out on the knowledge that’s been written, documented, so they can feel good about themselves.”

Wilmington’s Juneteenth Festival will continue throughout the weekend with plenty of celebratory events scheduled.

You can view the full schedule of events here.