SPRINGFIELD Mo. - Dozens gathered for the “Juneteenth” Celebration, in Springfield Saturday. It is the oldest known commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.
"We don't realize how hard it was, how treacherous it was," says guest speaker Patricia Burton. "I think that's part of the reason we have that separation. There's a lot of hurt, now we need to come together and embrace unity."
Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, but it wasn't until 1865 that slaves in Texas were set free
"It was on June 19th, that union soldiers lead by major Gordon Granger, landed in Galveston, Texas," said speaker, Nora England, in front of the crowd, "with news that the War had ended, and that the enslaved were now free."
It was the celebration following that day that has keep the tradition going.
"So now they were given the opportunity to go out and do something on their own, and they didn't know how to, they weren't equipped to, " says England, "we've got a lot of young people that are equipped now."
England says it’s now the responsibility of adults to pass the history on, helping all cultures better themselves.
"I knew about the slaves, but I didn't really know what exactly ‘Juneteenth was," says Central High School Junior, Markita Adams.
Many of the adults at the event were also learning about the reason for the celebration for the very first time
"I like how it's not just African Americans," says Adams, "I like how multiple cultures come out and celebrate."Organizers hope the singing, dancing and vendors help to grow the event, but more importantly It’s 150 year old message.
"Least we not forget," says Springfield Representative Charlie Norr, "we can't forget where we came from, because if you do you're destined to repeat it."
"We need to know each other's history and cultural preferences," says NAACP Springfield Chapter President Cheryl Clay, "if you don't know your history than you can't move forward."