Madison's Juneteenth Day Celebration Marks 25th Anniversary

Longtime coordinator Annie Weatherby-Flowers reflects on the milestone

USA Today ranked Madison's Juneteenth Day Celebration as one of the top in the nation.

USA Today ranked Madison's Juneteenth Day Celebration as one of the top in the nation.

PHOTO COURTESY OF A. DAVID DAHMER

How did Madison’s Juneteenth Day Celebration start out?
The idea of bringing Juneteenth to Madison occurred as a conversation over lunch with Diane Winfrey at the Madison Inner City Council on Substance Abuse in the winter of 1989. We were discussing the difference between Milwaukee and Madison, comparing the social pros and cons of each. Social and cultural activities were a key component of the discussion, which led to exploring the possibility of bringing a cultural event that would collectively appeal to the broader Madison Black community, like Juneteenth Day. I did the research and called together individuals who we thought might be interested in helping us plan the first Juneteenth Day Celebration. That group consisted of folks like the late Betty Franklin-Hammonds, Ed Holmes, John Winston Sr., Mona Winston Adams, Cheryl and Isadore Knox. 

Annie Weatherby-Flowers

How has the event grown and changed since then?
It has grown in numbers, influence and significance. On June 19, 1990, there were about five hundred to a thousand folks who attended the celebration. In 2007 to 2010, that number was 15,000. The celebration expanded from events on the Dane County Showmobile stage in Penn Park to seven tents full of programming, the annual parade and the ranking by USA Today as one of the ten best Juneteenth celebrations in the nation.

What elements are always involved in Juneteenth?
Educational and historical facts regarding the contributions, experiences, accomplishments and shared heritage of the Black folks in America.

What do you have planned for this year’s celebration?
Celebrating! We usually have it broken down from slavery to contemporary times … through dance, spoken word, song and dramatization.

What do you hope people get from attending Juneteenth?
A glimpse of the Black experience and leaving having learned or experienced something new.

The twenty-fifth annual Juneteenth Day Celebration takes place June 21 at Penn Park.

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