By Dylan Deprey
It has been 154 years since Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipaton Proclamation. It was the world-altering document that broke the 400 year shackles of Chattel Slavery.
It wasn’t until two years later, back in June 1865, when Union soldiers landed in Galveston, TX with the news that the war was over.
As the freed slaves celebrated in rejoice, the family stripping, culture busting, backbreaking pain that slavery had ensued was alleviated for the moment.
As June 19th, was later named “Juneteenth Day,” it is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration for slavery ending in the United States, according to celebration website, Juneteenth.com.
The festival has moved far from its Southern roots and is celebrated across the nation. It is a day gathering with family, enjoying the community and focusing on improving oneself.
As Milwaukee’s summer festival season is in effect, the Milwaukee Juneteenth Day Street Festival is set to celebrate its 46th year on June 19th, 2017.
The festival will close off the W. Locust St. between 37th St. and 38th St. and bring food, activities live music and resources to the community from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
“It’s a family orientated event, and it’s actually the biggest in the country,” said Adriane Griffin, Juneteenth Day coordinator.
In its early days, the celebration included a prayer service, speakers with inspirational messages, a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, stories from former slaves, food, red soda water, games, and rodeo dances, according to America’s Black Holocaust Museum.
A Galveston native, Hayes Turner described the scene in an essay, “the 19th of June wasn’t the exact day the Negro was freed. But that’s the day they told them that they was free … And my daddy told me that they whooped and hollered and bored holes in trees with augers and stopped it up with [gun] powder and light and that would be their blast for the celebration.’”
Though no trees were blown, Milwaukee has already been celebrating. Local area teens competed for up to $3,000 in scholarships for the 2017 Ms. and Little Miss Juneteenth Day Pageant on June 10. The Pageant was an opportunity for girls to highlight academics, positive community involvement and featured talents.
The 2017 winners, Little Miss Juneteenth Eriana Morton and Miss Juneteenth Bria Smith will also be in the Juneteenth Day parade from 19th & Atkinson to Martin Luther King Drive beginning at 9 a.m.
Running Rebels, Dreamchasers, WCS and Safe & Sound will also be hosting the Juneteenth Family Fun Zone at Clinton Rose Park from 1pm-4pm. There will be live entertainment, give-a-ways, basketball contests with trophies to winners, free food while it last and many more fun activities.
For more information visit https://www.juneteenthdaymilwaukee.com/