DETROIT – This coming Sunday, the nation stops to commemorate Juneteenth.
The national holiday marked the date when federal troops freed the last remaining enslaved people in Texas and here in Detroit. There are events planned all weekend long to mark this important moment.
Several communities across southeast Detroit are celebrating this weekend, some for the very first time. It’s a huge contrast to a few years ago and with more events comes great pride.
“It makes me happy to know that the idea of celebration of Juneteenth is being used to educate people about what happened in our country,” said Yolanda Jack, the Manager for Community Engagement, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.
Jack says Juneteenth and the events surrounding it are hers and the Wright Museum of African American History’s passion.
“That’s what we do all year and thinking about Juneteenth and the work that has connected to the freedom work in Detroit and what was happening in Galveston, Texas,” Jack said.
The museum has hosted Juneteenth celebrations for years, but this year features a Saturday morning treasure hunt on the Underground Railroad Trail.
“We walk past these locations and drive past them in downtown and Greektown almost every day if you come down to this community and don’t realize the significant historical connections that we have to the underground railroad and freedom right here in Detroit,” Jack said.
On the same day at Coleman Young Center Park at what was once Camp Ward in Black Bottom, Gryot Production is hosting its first annual celebration with 102nd U.S. Colored Troop reenactors.
“We have to get into our history to really know it, and we’ve been so connected to freedom for so long that we always just kind of like, ‘oh yeah, it’s not that big a deal,’” said Sharon Elizabeth Sexton of Gryot Productions. “But it is a big deal. And it started right here on this plot of land when our brothers from back 157 years ago went to fight for freedom.”
And as a historian, seeing more and more Juneteenth celebrations popping up is powerful.
“I’m glad that people are embracing it,” Sexton said. “You know that they have a history that they want to celebrate it.”
The Charles H. Wright Museum also has events Sunday on the actual holiday, which can be seen below.