DAVENPORT, Iowa — The "Friends of Martin Luther King" group is hosting its annual Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, June 19.
Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States. It was on June 19, 1865 that the last enslaved Black people learned from Union soldiers in Texas that they were free, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.
The holiday has received more national attention in the past year, but festival organizers said this Juneteenth celebration has been a staple in the Davenport community for many years.
The festival will be held from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. at the Lincoln Resource Center in Davenport. This is the first year the Lincoln Center has hosted this event.
Last year's Juneteenth celebration was virtual. The in-person festival was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Food vendors and entertainment will fill the parking lot. Inside the Lincoln Center, organizers have historical and civil rights exhibits planned, as well as some speakers. Organizers will also read the Emancipation Proclamation.
"When I was going to these Juneteenth celebrations, I didn't really understand the significance of what I was attending as a teenager," said Tracy Singleton, the festival's organizer and the executive director of the Lincoln Center. "So, through research and history and being very intrigued by the whole idea of being free but not free, I did a lot of research."
Organizers said hosting a more traditional Juneteenth celebration is an important way to honor history.
"The message that's been, that we've been trying to send for generations is Black history is American history, and we need to embrace that," said Ryan Saddler, the CEO of the Friends of Martin Luther King. "And so Juneteenth, celebrating Juneteenth, really, if we can look at it through that lens of us celebrating American history."
The Lincoln Center parking lot will be full. The best options for parking are along Pershing or Iowa Streets. You can also park downtown.