PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Wednesday was an important day in American history – Juneteenth. The day commemorated the legal end to slavery in the United States and a museum in Philadelphia put on a special celebration.
All day long Wednesday, visitors strolled through the African American Museum for a museum-wide celebration of Juneteenth. Many learned the history of the very important day with memorable and emotional reenactments.
There was a flurry of activity at the African American Museum of Philadelphia, a celebration of liberation on the 154th anniversary of Juneteenth, commemorating the abolition of slavery in 1865.
“Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom, of liberty, the ending of slavery,” Hannah Wallace, an employee at the museum, said. “1865 Galveston, Texas, was finally notified that the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. They were the last to find out after two years had already passed.”
Young visitors were absorbing every word from Civil War reenactors representing the U.S. colored troops, getting a chance to see and feel a small part of one of the darkest eras in American history all while celebrating its ending.
“I came to show my grandchildren and one grandniece what I didn’t have the opportunity at their age,” Kenneth Cole, of Pennsauken, New Jersey, said. “Everything here they’ve stayed focused, they’ve asked questions. Everything here is very interesting.”
There were arts and crafts, guided tours and screenings along with an unforgettable account of one slave’s quest for freedom.
“I’m here to gain as much knowledge as I can so I can pass it on to my 5-year-old grandson,” Mary Tillery, of North Philadelphia, said.
Visitors gaining and passing on knowledge, the goal of this and every Juneteenth event.
“This is 154 years of this tradition. That makes it a true tradition so it makes sense to keep passing it on and recognize what it stands for, to really give a date to think about our liberty and to remember that it was not always ours,” Wallace said.
On Wednesday night, there was also an outdoor drum and dance performance held at the African American Museum of Philadelphia.
All of the programs offered Wednesday were free with admission to the museum.
Gov. Tom Wolf also made Juneteenth a Pennsylvania holiday on Wednesday. Philadelphia is holding its Juneteenth parade and festival on Saturday.