Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery and is also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day. Read on for a bit of history (as shared from Juneteenth.com) and a community event.

History

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th the Union soldiers - led by Major General Gordon Granger - landed at Galveston, Texas with news the war had ended and the enslaved were now free. Note this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.

The reactions to this profound news ranged from pure shock to immediate jubilation. While many lingered to learn of this new employer to employee relationship, many left before these offers were completely off the lips of their former 'masters' - attesting to the varying conditions on the plantations and the realization of freedom. Even with nowhere to go, many felt that leaving the plantation would be their first grasp of freedom. North was a logical destination and for many it represented true freedom, while the desire to reach family members in neighboring states drove some into Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

The celebration of June 19th was coined "Juneteenth" and grew with more participation from descendants. The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date.

Juneteenth today, celebrates African American freedom and achievement, while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures. As it takes on a more national, symbolic and even global perspective, the events of 1865 in Texas are not forgotten, for all of the roots tie back to this fertile soil from which a national day of pride is growing.

The future of Juneteenth looks bright as the number of cities and states creating Juneteenth committees continues to increase. Respect and appreciation for all of our differences grow out of exposure and working together. Getting involved and supporting Juneteenth celebrations creates new bonds of friendship and understanding among us. This indeed brightens our future - and that is the Spirit of Juneteenth.

Community Event

Community members Kayley McColley, La’Tanya Campbell, Christine Salm, and Gwen Taylor, invite you to celebrate through food, drinks, music, and more. The themes for the night are social justice, freedom, heritage, legacy, allyship, and Black history.

  • Participate in a community paint session via a partnership with Rise UP.
  • Enjoy activities for children including an obstacle course and interactions with Wausau Police Department and Wausau Fire Department.
  • Connect with members of our community in a relaxed, fun way with food and music.
  • Share your voice and hear from others via an open mic for spoken word, song, and poetry. (Or even share physical art pieces.)

All are welcome to attend this free community event. No RSVP required. Simply join in at Whitewater Music Hall (131 1st Street, Wausau) anytime between 2:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 19. Reach out through the Facebook Event page for more information and with questions.