Omaha, NE — Juneteenth festivities in Omaha kicked off Saturday with a ceremonial flag-raising and award ceremony at the Omaha Public Library- Charles B. Washington Branch.
“This year it was like the people were excited. They were excited about being somewhere, being a part of something. Being a part of a movement, a positive movement forward and just to get together again during COVID and then also to see the bottoms of everybody’s face,” says Willie Williams, president of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation for Nebraska and New Mexico.
Juneteenth is a holiday meant to celebrate the anniversary that most American slaves were freed. During the flag-raising, an oral history of the day was given.
“It’s celebrated June 19th, 1865 when Granger arrived in Galveston, TX to replenish his supplies and water and all those things and the US colored troops came to him and said ‘hey, not everybody in this state is free. Not everybody is free!’ And upon that, general order number 3 was created that all slaves, all people are free,” says Williams.
The event also featured a short awards ceremony. Then, many of Omaha’s elected officials, armed service members, and community leaders took the stage to say a few words about the occasion.
After the flag-raising ceremony, people were invited into the library to see a new picture exhibit of the African-Americans who make up North Omaha.
“So, we always try to add something to the celebration, whether it’s bringing in history experts or having some sort of program for kids. This year we decided to partner with the Great Plains Black History Museum and do a photo exhibit highlighting North Omaha history all the way from about 1900 to the mid-1980s,” says Amy Wenzl, branch manager of the Charles B Washington Omaha Public Library.
The exhibit will be up at the library from now until July 10th.
Then it will move to the Great Plains Black History Museum.
The executive director of the museum says it’s important for people to celebrate black history 365 days a year.
“It’s important because it lets folks see the legacy, the more positive things as it pertains to North Omaha and what North Omaha was and what North Omaha can be today. So I think by taking a look at these pictures we can see our youth and things can see some of the more positive things that occurred in the community,” says Eric L. Ewing, executive director of the Great Plains Black History Museum.
The Great Plains Black History Museum is open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Right now it is by appointment only due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. You can schedule an appointment here.
The library is also looking for people to tell their stories to add to their history exhibit! If you have a story to tell, you can contact the library directly by calling (402)444-4849.
More Juneteenth events are scheduled in Omaha throughout next week. You can find more information about local Juneteenth celebrations here.