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On the Banks of Freedom: New monument along Ohio River in Louisville tributes Kentucky's forgotten slaves

The monument looks to bridge Kentucky's future with its darker past.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Just two days after President Joe Biden signed a bill into law making Juneteenth a national holiday, a special reckoning happened near the Ohio River on Saturday.

People from various walks of life gathered on 9th Street at the river for the unveiling of “On the Banks of Freedom”, a new monument that recognizes the forgotten slaves in Kentucky.

"Feel the spirit. Hear the ancestors calling out thank you for remembering them," read one of the speakers at the unveiling.

The (Un)Known Project had been working on the installation for two years. The work of art features benches mounted with names of the enslaved on a cement platform and poet Hannah Drake’s poem, “Finding Me” etched in the sidewalk nearby.

The platform also featured footprints of the enslaved who may have looked to southern Indiana as a beacon of hope, possibly crossing the waters of the river to be free.

Credit: WHAS-TV
On The Banks of Freedom Monument

For some who attended the unveiling, they said this moment has opened their eyes to new information.

"I look at the chains that my ancestors were brought here, and it brings tears to my eyes," Josef Burgan expressed. "And I'll be 60 in November and for the first time I'm hearing about some of these things and learning some of these things that America didn't tell me.”

The monument acknowledges their existence while inspiring future generations so we can move forward with truth and honesty.

“My people suffered so that I can stand strong and tell you all about the wrong. I do this for myself. I do it for the unknowns."

For more information on the (Un)Known Project, click here

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