Two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed enslaved persons in the Confederates states in 1865, Union major general Gordon Granger landed in Galveston, Texas, and delivered the news.

As Blacks migrated across America, they carried Juneteenth with them, helping to turn an event once recognized only in Black communities into a national holiday. Juneteenth officially became the 12th national holiday on June 17, 2021 after President Joe Biden signed a bill to recognize the day that has commemorated the end of chattel slavery.

Milwaukee is home to one of the longest held Juneteenth Day celebrations in the United States. June 19, 2022 marked the 51st anniversary of the local event to commemorate Emancipation. When it first began in 1971, Milwaukee was one of the first Northern cities to host such celebrations. The local parade and festivities have been organized by Northcott Neighborhood House for the past half century.

In pre-pandemic years the event would attract up to 170,000 visitors. For 2022, the second year of Juneteenth being a Federal holiday, the crowd capacity appeared to break all previous records. Tens of thousands of families filled the corridor by lunch time.

Nearly 400 vendors in booths lined King Drive from Burleigh to Center Streets, offering African-style crafts and a variety of traditional food unique to the street festival. The holiday began with the Juneteenth Parade, followed by opening ceremonies. The street festival concluded with a concert at Bernice and Clinton Rose Park.

The festivities officially kicked off on June 17 at City Hall, when the Juneteenth flag was raised above the Zeidler Municipal Building. Because the holiday fell on Father’s Day in 2022, the theme of the celebration was “A Tribute to Dads … Father, Teacher, Protector, and Hero.”

Mayor Cavalier Johnson was the Grand Marshall of the 51st annual celebration, with the extra distinction of being Milwaukee’s first elected Black Mayor.