The first Juneteen Celebration in Great Falls was held in Gibson Park today at the bandshell. The Cascade County Democratic Central Committee (CCDCC) was one of the sponsors of the event. A lot of work by the YWCA, Great Falls Public Library, NeighborWorks Great Falls, various organizations at Malmstrom AFB, and lots of other individuals including CCDCC members, went into planning and holding the event. It was a very enjoyable time and was well attended.
From the website Juneteenth.com: Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
Mayor Bob Kelly said that he believed the celebration being held in Great Falls today was the only major event in the state. A smaller gathering was held in Billings.