Amidst the many celebrations going on throughout the state, comes the news of yet another “first” in the City of Detroit – the official celebration of Juneteenth Day.
The City of Detroit’s Department of Civil Rights, Inclusion and Opportunity (CRIO) will host a Freedom Party in honor of Juneteenth, the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery, with an afternoon of public events at Spirit Plaza in downtown Detroit on Wednesday, June 19.
Juneteenth dates to 1865, when on June 19, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended with the slaveholding South’s defeat, and that all those enslaved were now free. The news came two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which for a number of reasons hadn’t resulted in slavery’s end in Texas.
According to CRIO Director, Charity Dean, this will be the first year that the City of Detroit’s government has officially organized and sponsored a Juneteenth celebration for its residents. For the celebration, Dean’s department is partnering with the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History to present the afternoon’s festivities from noon to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, June 19.
The event will begin with remarks from Mayor Duggan, members of City Council and Director Dean and will include family-friendly activities from storytellers and a drum circle to traveling exhibits and a performance by the Mosaic Youth Scholars Orchestra. Food trucks will be on hand, according to organizers.
“It’s important that Detroit, as a predominately African American city, officially celebrate Juneteenth and its significance in African American history and culture,” says Mayor Duggan. “I appreciate the city’s department of Civil Right, Inclusion & Opportunity taking the lead to make this happen.”
Dean said she believes this formal recognition by the City will be important to Detroiters because even after the end of slavery, African Americans continued to struggle against lynchings, segregation and discrimination.
“While Juneteenth is at its heart a celebration of the end of slavery, it is also a recognition of the fact that it took two years for news to reach many African American that they were free under the law,” Dean says. “Detroit’s Juneteenth celebration will reflect both of these truths to recognize that while significant progress has been made in our nation since 1865 it often has not been fast enough.”
“We are excited to partner with the City of Detroit for this enriching cultural event, filled with historical insight and celebration,” says Edward Foxworth III, Interim Director of Education at the Charles H. Wright Museum. “Because of its emphasis on education and achievement, this powerful commemoration of African-American freedom, Juneteenth, serves as an inspiring message of self-improvement.”
The public recognition is meaningful to many.
“The Juneteenth Celebration is something that is critically important to the African Americans, the history of the nation and the proliferation of the United States as the world’s foremost super power and moral authority,” says Council President Pro-Tem Mary Sheffield, who is among the event organizers. “It was the emancipation of the slaves in the U.S. which allowed this country to turn the page from its most heinous past and chart a more prosperous future. Although it is a celebration, it also signifies our obligation to continue to be the purveyors of truth and freedom in our communities and throughout the world.”
Editor’s note: The City of Detroit’s official Juneteenth celebration will take place on Wednesday, June 19 from 12:00 – 5:00 p.m. at Spirit Plaza in front of the Spirit of Detroit statue, 2 Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit.