Milwaukee is home to one of the longest held Juneteenth Day celebrations in the United States.

Juneteenth, a commemoration of the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, has long held profound significance in American history.

June 19, 2023 marks the 52nd anniversary of the commemoration of Emancipation Day in Milwaukee. 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.

Also known as Freedom Day, Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to deliver the news of the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued two and a half years earlier. The event marked the official end of slavery in the United States.

Milwaukee Independent has documented the city’s local celebration of Juneteenth Day in images for almost a decade. Each year, photojournalist Lee Matz has captured the essence and energy of the holiday with his camera.

Those immersive photographs have encapsulated moments in time, recording the essence of the parade processions, cultural performances, and genuine expressions of joy and togetherness that defined the holiday festival for the Black community.

Unable to cover any Juneteenth celebrations for the first time since Milwaukee Independent began publishing, a collection of photos from past years has been curated for 2023. Many of the previous images have highlighted elected officials and community leaders. For this special collection, photos specifically feature participation by members of the public.