EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – It’s a day set aside for celebration and remembrance. Today is Juneteenth, marking the end of slavery in the United States.
“Freedom isn’t free and there is a lot of work to be done, and the work has to be vigilant, it has to be constant, the work has to be sustaining,” said Evansville African American Museum Co-Founder Aretha Sebree Graves. “We can celebrate today, but tomorrow we get back to work.”
For Sebree Graves, days like today hit her differently.
It was June 19, 1865 – the date when Union soldiers arrived in Texas and issued General Order Number 3 – announcing freedom to the last slaves left in America.
155 years later, the black community is still reflecting on that day, hopeful to keep the historical memory alive.
“That’s why we celebrate Juneteenth as a day to celebrate the last vestiges of slavery and those individuals who did hear that they were free and it’s just a way to continue that conversation about our history as African Americans in the U.S. and also to celebrate that liberation,” said Evansville African American Museum Development Director Jalessa Slade.
The news from 1865 led to mass celebrations among African Americans – and would later grow into the nationally recognized ‘National Freedom Day.’
Evansville community activists and black leaders say more education is needed.
“For the folks who are just now being newly educated, I think they should be newly motivated and to really get down and do some work and make America great and to take the opportunity because equal justice for everyone just makes a stronger America,” Sebree Graves said.
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb issued a proclamation celebrating Juneteenth – and earlier this week The U.S. Senate passed a resolution officially designating Juneteenth Independence Day.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear recently called on state lawmakers to make the day a state holiday.
Many in the Evansville black community say there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“Juneteenth is the celebration of freedom, but for everyone to understand freedom isn’t free, freedom requires vigilance, it requires perseverance,” Sebree Graves said.
(This story was originally published on June 19, 2020)