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Join Us in Celebrating Juneteenth 

Juneteenth—also known as Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day, Juneteenth National Freedom Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, and Black Independence Day—is an annual celebration marking an end to slavery in the United States. While President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, few people in our country were immediately freed. In fact, two and a half years passed before the last enslaved African Americans in Texas were pronounced free people. On June 19, 1865, enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, were finally given the liberating news. On that momentous day in 1865, Union Major-General Gordon Granger read these words to the people of Galveston: 

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.” 

In the years following, Juneteenth celebrations grew in numbers in Texas and expanded to other cities, as African Americans in the South migrated across the country. Of the Northern states, Wisconsin—and more specifically Milwaukee—was the first to celebrate Juneteenth in 1971. By 1977, a record 140,000 people gathered on June 19 in our Harambee neighborhood. One of Milwaukee’s early Juneteenth festival champions, the late Janet Kemp, told the Milwaukee Journal in 1986, “Ever since black people came to America, they have been able to come together and get a camaraderie that says, ‘I’m going to survive. I’m going to make it.’” 

In 2009, Wisconsin officially adopted Juneteenth as a state holiday. Today, a total of 47 states including Wisconsin recognize the day as a state holiday. Just this week, the U.S. House and Senate passed a resolution to make Juneteenth or June 19th, the 12th federal holiday. The bill now goes to President Joe Biden’s desk, and he is expected to sign it into law. 

As our city begins to reopen following the COVID-19 pandemic, we will gather once again to celebrate Juneteenth in Milwaukee. On June 19, 2021, Legacy Redevelopment Corp. invites you to join us in celebrating Black lives, innovation, creativity, and activism not just on this historic day, but every day as we work to achieve full equality for all Americans. As a community, a city, and a nation, let’s come together to honor Black history, celebrate Black culture, and recognize the significant achievements of African Americans.  

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