The city of Nashville recognized Juneteenth, the oldest known U.S. holiday marking the end of slavery, with an inaugural event Tuesday that organizers hope will launch an annual celebration.
The event was held at Fort Negley, a site chosen to honor the African-American soldiers who fought the Confederacy as well as the laborers of color who built the fort. Festivities included libations to remember civil rights heroes, speeches for criminal justice reform and performances by musicians and reenactors.
"There's a lot of history in Nashville," local resident Jaacalyn Davis said. "We want to make sure we support it for everyone to know the historic value of this place."
Juneteenth marks the abolition of slavery in Texas following the conclusion of the Civil War on June 19, 1865. There's been a push in recent years to give the day formal recognition as a celebration of the end of slavery, but public commemorations have been rare.
Civil rights activist Kwame Leo Lillard helped organize the event. He has participated in the Freedom Rides and sit-ins.
He says millenials helped make the inaugural Juneteenth celebration happen.
"The young people are going to do things we could not do," Lillard said. "They have more tools than we do. We had mimeograph machines; they've got the internet."