News Column

Eau Claire marks event that freed blacks in the U.S. from slavery

June 20, 2014

By Jocelyn Syrstad, The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis.

June 20--Roughly 200 people gathered at the Pine Pavilion in Eau Claire'sCarson Park Thursday for a Juneteenth celebration.

The holiday commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S., which happened on June 19, 1865. Although Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in January of the same year, it took that long to deliver the message to the rest of the country.

Eau Claire's Juneteenth celebration consisted of free food, live music, guest speakers and the chance to celebrate with a community this important date in U.S. history.

"I first learned about this holiday through my professors at UW-Eau Claire, who play big roles in putting this event on each year," said Kate Edwards, a resident of Eau Claire. "This is a significant point in history to celebrate, and I make a point of coming out to this event each year."

Edwards brought her 4-year-old daughter, Chloe, to the event as well as her friend, Nicholas Ligon. Ligon said he probably wouldn't have known about the event had it not been for Edwards, but he was glad his friend encouraged him to attend.

Edwards said a big reason she celebrates Juneteenth year after year is in part to educate her daughter on U.S. history and partly to remind herself of the importance of the event. One speaker's point resonated with her, she said, when he talked about how if society doesn't continue to learn and know about history, then history will repeat itself. And Edwards wants people, especially her daughter, to understand the importance of how far the U.S. has come.

"I strongly feel that the African-American voice needs to be heard and appreciated, especially when it comes to things like this," Edwards said. "That culture has achieved so much so peacefully, and that is just another reason why Juneteenth is so important to celebrate."

While some guests, like Edwards, came to the Eau Claire event with a vast knowledge of the Juneteenth holiday, there were others who didn't know much about it at all.

Tian Liu, a student at UW-Eau Claire, attended the celebration with the rest of his Math & Science Camp group, which is affiliated with the university.

"Our professors from the university encouraged us to join the celebration, and it has been enjoyable," Liu said. "Our professors thought it would be good for us to see how Juneteenth is celebrated here, and we're learning a lot."

Syrstad can be reached at 715-833-9206, 800-236-7077 or


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Source: Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, WI)

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