Milwaukee prepares to celebrate Juneteenth, a day that has found new meaning in the US

MILWAUKEE -- Friday, June 19 marks Juneteenth, a day commemorating the end of slavery in America. This historical day has found new meaning in recent weeks.

Clayborn Benson

The City of Milwaukee has a rich history when it comes to celebrating Juneteenth. While the COVID-19 pandemic has paused some celebrations, Clayborn Benson, founder of the Wisconsin Black Historical Society, said the significance of Juneteenth stills stands.

"Juneteenth Day tells us we should be grateful. We should strive to be the best we possibly can -- and demand our rights as equal citizens," Benson said.

June 19, 1865, marks the day when news that slavery was abolished reached slaves in Galveston, Texas.

"Here, a group of people who were not told and had not heard they were freed," Benson said.

It came two years after President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.

"Because the information was kept away from them," Benson said.

Juneteenth has gained new attention as protests against racial injustice continue.

"In the wake of Black Lives Matters and other people observing the human rights of African Americans, Juneteenth Day fits right into that spectrum," Benson said.

Benson said the day should be about reflection -- admiring strength and celebrating freedom.

"I hope our young people invest in learning it -- and truly learning it and every facet of what it is," Benson said.

Benson and other Milwaukee leaders hope one day Juneteenth becomes an official holiday recognized across the country.