Juneteenth Celebrates History and Community

By Cierra Putman
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - Hundreds of West Texans spent Saturday celebrating and remembering when thousands of Texas slaves learned they were free.

At this year's Juneteenth celebration in Midland, tons of people were ready to talk about what the holiday means to them.

"That's actually where it comes from celebrating our freedom here in Texas," Ralph Henson said.

Two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, slaves in Texas finally learned they were free.

Now each year, the Tall City Lions Club hosts a Juneteenth celebration in remembrance and each year families gather to celebrate.

"There was one time where I didn't make it back for 19 years," Bobby White said. "But for the last 6 years, I've made it every year back every time."

Bobby White is a son of Midland who now lives in California.

For him and many others who've moved away, they just feel compelled to return on June 19. Looking around Washington Park, it's clear Juneteenth is both a celebration of history and community.

"I came to celebrate with God and have all the good times with my family," Braeden Chambers said.

"For the people you know see everybody. It's about having fun today," Don Smith said.

"I think it's something like a family reunion, just to see new people and people coming from out of town," Jaime Taylor said. "So, it's good to be around people and just be peaceful."

While the young enjoy the social aspect of the day, the older generations do their best to make sure history isn't forgotten.

"It's a celebration of the ending of slavery which was the Emancipation Proclamation," Morris Williams said. "And a lot of younger people really don't know that it's a celebration of being free and an American."

Over the years, they say more and more people turn out to celebrate.

"More recognition from more people and other races," White said. "It's a family tradition unlike any other if you're a Texan."