Juneteenth is an important historic day not only for Milwaukee, but for the entire country. This marks the day when nearly 2,000 troops marched to Galveston Bay, Texas to announce to about 250,000 enslaved Black people that they were finally free by executive order through the Emancipation Proclamation and Thirteenth Amendment. This day was June 19, 1865. Over the decades, celebrations of this holiday have taken many forms, but the date of June 19th remained, reshaping it into Juneteenth Day. In 1971, Juneteenth festivities debuted in Milwaukee, making it one of the first northern cities to honor this holiday.
Since then, Juneteenth in Milwaukee has grown larger each year and the community doesn’t hold anything back. In fact, according to the City of Milwaukee’s records, it is the oldest known and longest-running Juneteenth celebration in the United States. What started as a small gathering of vendors, now spans up to four blocks of fun. Celebrations traditionally include food, speakers, live music, and, of course, one of the largest Juneteenth parades in the country. According to USA Today, red foods and drinks are traditionally served on Juneteenth, symbolizing resilience and perseverance.
This year, the Juneteenth celebration in Milwaukee marks its 50th anniversary. In-person events hosted by the Northcott Neighborhood House return this year starting with a parade at 8 a.m. on Saturday, June 19. Other events continue throughout the day on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive between West Burleigh Street and West Center Street until 4 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to wear masks. Unable to attend the event in person? The parade will be broadcast live on Milwaukee’s TMJ4 along with other historic and educational programs.
While it is a day that recognizes the past, it is also a day that can help look toward a progressive future. Pre-pandemic, the event would attract over 170,000 attendees. Because of this, Juneteenth celebrations in Milwaukee help give a platform for the voices of advocates that might not be frequently heard. No matter who you are or where you come from, this important celebration is one that you will not want to miss. You can even mark your calendars for next year as Milwaukee consistently holds celebrations on June 19 regardless of that day of the week.