Juneteenth, celebrated here in Madison at Penn Park, dates to June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas, with news the Civil War had ended and slaves were free. (Photo by A. David Dahmer)

Gov. Tony Evers issued a proclamation declaring June 19th as Juneteenth Day throughout the state of Wisconsin. Juneteenth commemorates the day, in 1865, where the last slaves were informed of their freedom, effectively ending slavery in the United States.

“Juneteenth is recognized throughout the United States and Wisconsin is proud to be a part of this important day,” Gov. Evers said in a statement. “This is a time to recognize the struggles of African Americans in our country’s modern history. While we use this time to reconcile with our past, we must also continue to make progress by moving forward in solidarity and strength.”

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, a day when African-American slaves in Texas were told by Union forces that they were free. They were the final group of slaves to realize their freedom. Deep in the Confederacy, they were unaware of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation almost two years earlier. A celebration of the day has been held annually in Texas ever since, which eventually spread to other states.

Gov. Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes will attend Milwaukee’s 48th annual Juneteenth Day Festival opening ceremony today starting at noon at the main stage on the intersection of North Martin Luther King Drive and West Locust Street. The ceremony will include the presentation of a certificate of commendation from Gov. Evers to MacArthur Weddle, executive director of Northcott Neighborhood House, for his 40 years of service to the Milwaukee community.

The Juneteenth Day Festival will include state agency booths from the Department of Children and Families, Natural Resources, Workforce Development, Financial Institutions, Veterans Affairs, and Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. The festival is free and open to the public.