ABC57 Road Trip: Celebrate Juneteenth at the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center
CHICAGO - This week, ABC57’s Road Trip series is honoring Juneteenth, the newly recognized federal holiday on June 19th that commemorates the freedom of all enslaved African Americans in 1865 two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln.
ABC57’s Naja Woods stopped by the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center in Chicago to not only learn about Black History, but American History.
“I'm with seven other young black men and we wanted to learn our history better... and get more young black men active in this role and understand our roots and seeing that vulnerability is power,” said visitor Jaylon Cal.
Cal and his group made the trip to Chicago from St. Louis.
They’re among thousands of people who travel from all around the world to visit the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center, the oldest independent black history museum in the nation.
“We were founded in 1961, by the wonderful Dr. Margaret T. Burroughs, who herself was an educator, and a poet and an artist and she started her museum in her home in Brownsville, which is a neighborhood here on the south side of Chicago,” said Perri Irmer, President and CEO of the museum.
The museum, named after Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable, the Haitian-born founder of Chicago, celebrates and educates everyone about the rich history of black people well before slavery.
“It's so important to have an identity in culture and an accurate history, right?” Irmer said. “We start our story with the beauty of the freedom of the black family and tribal life in West Africa, before the crime of slavery was committed...and then we move up through the slave trade and the Civil Rights Movement. So it's a really comprehensive story that you'll hear here. And it's narrated by us, for us...”
The DuSable Museum also features pieces from world-renowned black artists, an entire World War One exhibit on black troops who fought for our country and a traveling exhibit on Emmett Till.
The exhibits all share different stories...
“We have a traveling exhibit that is on display right now, through July 16, 2023,” said Irmer. “That is a story of Emmett Till. And it is really made for younger audiences. So I would encourage your viewers to come and see that exhibit. Let the world see.”
The museum allows you to learn not only about Black culture around America, but black culture here in Chicago, and it’s rich black history, for example....
“We have an exhibit on our first black mayor, Harold Washington,” Irmer said.
On top of all of this, the family-friendly museum is home to the largest Juneteenth celebration in Chicago, the now federal holiday recognizing the freedom of all enslaved African Americans in 1865 and commemorated for centuries among black communities.
“Slaves in Texas had no idea that they were free, legally free, until like more than two years later,” said Irmer. “So we celebrate Juneteenth as emancipation, that's Freedom Day that originated in Texas. And of course, we know that only last year, it became a real recognized holiday. So we're really excited to celebrate it.”
And as everyone comes together to celebrate freedom, it’s crucial to acknowledge America's painful past that got us here and still impacts us today.
The police killing of George Floyd in 2020 sparked a nationwide movement for communities to unite, including in the city of Chicago. Artwork was collected from around the city and put at the DuSable Museum.
“I don't want people to get confused and thinking this is just for black people,” Cal said. “This is actual history...cause a lot of times it is erased. And we don't really know that, like, there was some things we saw here that we didn't even know.”
“It is important to understand where you come from, what your history is, what the impact of that history is, on our lives currently,” said Irmer. “And most importantly, how do we take that knowledge in order to move forward and make good history, make better history, more equality, more humanity, going forward.”
The Juneteenth celebration at the DuSable History Museum and Education Center is happening Monday, June 19th, and is free to the public. It will also celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, featuring music, food, games, and more.