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EXPLAINED: Why do we celebrate Juneteenth in Louisville?

"I think our ancestors need to be celebrated because I still today can't figure out how they did it."

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Juneteenth is only a few days away and this weekend there will be celebrations and events across the Metro.

WHAS11's Sherlene Shanklin sat down with community leaders who work to educate and celebrate the recently recognized federal holiday to learn more about Juneteenth and its significance.

Wanda Mitchell Smith, chair for the city's Juneteenth Jubilee Commissioners, said Juneteenth, which as the name implies, is on June 19.

"That's when freedom came to the slaves that were in Texas," Smith said. "It took two years for them to be able to get the news that they were actually free. Imagine still being in bondage for two extra years outside of your freedom. That's why we should be able to celebrate it again today.”

Aukram Burton serves as the executive director for the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage. Burton said he celebrates Juneteenth to celebrate his ancestors. 

"I think our ancestors need to be celebrated because I still today can't figure out how they did it. When you think about all the things that they went through, from slavery to Jim Crow, that's the reason why I think it's important any chance we can get to come together celebrate,” he said.

Kentucky -- specifically Louisville -- Smith says, didn't celebrate Juneteenth until fairly recently.

“In Western Kentucky, it is called Homecoming, those types of festivals are on Aug. 8. But we actually did not receive the Juneteenth information until in December," Smith said. "So we've got a lot of different days but for Louisville, we're going to celebrate with Texas on June 19."

LIST: Events celebrating Juneteenth 2023 in Louisville

Marjorie Marshall, visitor experience coordinator for KCAAH, said it's an important day, culturally, for people of color.

"I feel personally, where we are in the world today -- and how important it is that we understand our history to the degree that we are accountable to our community, to our families, to the village," Marshall said.

'Well, I think that any chance we can get to celebrate, you know, things that we struggled for," Burton said. "We should take advantage of. However, I you know, Juneteenth was about, you know, the abolition of slavery And I really think that's an important thing for us to recognize and celebrate."

To see what Louisville has planned for Juneteenth, click here.

►Contact WHAS11’s Sherlene Shanklin at sshanklin@whas11.com or follow her on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

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