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A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

Juneteenth celebration returns to Grand Rapids


 June 19, 1865 marks the day when the abolition of slavery spread across the state of Texas. The historic day is known as Juneteenth and is remembered as a day of freedom. Randall Jelks, a professor at the University of Kansas, has spent his career studying the history of African Americans in Grand Rapids. 

“Texas was a part of the Confederacy, the breakaway states, that wanted to breakaway from the Union over the issue of the expansion of slavery into the western territories.”

Before the end of the civil war, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863 freeing all slaves; but in Texas the news didn’t come until two years later. 

“Unfortunately, in Texas, the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t get there till June and when enslaved people realized that they were had some movement and freedoms under this military declaration that Abraham Lincoln gave.” 

According to Jelks, Grand Rapids began celebrating Juneteenth in the early 1990s, but this year, Jewellyn Richardson co-host of the Grand Rapids event, says she’s hoping to take it a step further and provide the community the opportunity to learn and remember.

“To revive, restore and remember our great history and the contributions of the African American people to this world.”

The family friendly event will feature local artists, drum and dance troops and performers. The event will be completely free and will take place this Wednesday at Dickinson Buffer Park in Grand Rapids from 1 to 7pm. 

Michelle Jokisch Polo, WGVU News.