LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)– Through concerts, health fairs and even special recognition from the Capitol, this year’s Juneteenth celebration was one of freedom for African Americans.
It was first recognized as a state holiday in 1993.
“We came from humble beginnings,” Lansing Juneteenth Committee Chairperson Marilyn Plummer says. “It was a church celebration that opened up to the community and then became a nonprofit entity, and therefore we just grew.”
The national holiday dates back to 1865, when a union general announced the end of slavery in Galveston, Texas more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln announced it in his Emancipation Proclamation.
Unlike that speech in 1863 where people found out about the announcement fairly quickly, it took a considerable amount of time for the news to spread. Those who were living in Galveston and heard the announcement in person had to get that news all the way up to states in the north like Michigan through word of mouth and oral histories. But even after the news spread around the country, there were still several hurdles that African Americans had to face in order to celebrate their new freedom.
“Back in earlier decades, those who would celebrate Juneteenth used to come to parks and public spaces,” committee member Rhonda Bishop says. “And legislatively, they were barred from doing so.”
It’s a far cry from the huge events that the city put on this year. And even though the celebrations wrapped up today..Committee members say the education doesn’t stop here.
“Speaking for the younger generation,” Bishop says, “I think it’s important to uphold the history and the integrity of something that came from triumph over tragedy.”