What is Juneteenth? A celebration of freedom, connections, family

When 76-year-old Mary Clay and her family moved to Springfield from Memphis in the 1970s, she was surprised to learn about a celebration for the freedom of Black people.

Families were less connected in the South and racism toward African Americans was prevalent, Clay said. So an event like Juneteenth was news.

“It wasn’t recognized in my neck of the woods and there wasn’t a lot of coming together,” Clay said. “It was the South so no one pushed it but when we got to Springfield that’s when it all began.”

Christina Shutt, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, said Clay’s experience wasn’t surprising and that most people forget that Juneteenth is uniquely a Galveston, Texas holiday. She said it only picked up in areas where former slaves settled after the June 19 liberating event in 1865.

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