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Local Juneteenth event to become tradition
Dr. Leo Burns
Dr. Leo Burns addresses the audience during the June 19 observance of Juneteenth at Effingham Health System’s Human Resources Building. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

SPRINGFIELD — It was an event 154 years in the making.

The Effingham County Branch of the NAACP hosted its first Juneteenth observance at Effingham Health System’s Human Resources Building on June 19. About 50 people attended.

“We intend to make this an annual event,” said Lucy Powell, a founding member of the local NAACP branch.

Dr. Leo Burns of Union Springs Methodist Church, one of the event’s first speakers, explained why Juneteenth recognition is important. 

“I’m sure a lot of you have never even heard of (Juneteenth), and don’t really know what it all entails,” he said.

According to the national registry of Juneteenth organizations and supporters say, “Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.” 

 “While I was preparing my information, I learned some things that even I didn’t know about,” Burns said. “We lack knowledge when we don’t know about our history.”

On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers informed slaves in Texas that they were free. That knowledge came 2 1/2 years after President Abraham Lincoln had abolished slavery in an executive order known as the Emancipation Proclamation.

Willie Wright also discussed Juneteenth and its importance.

“There is a big push for Juneteenth to become a national holiday,” he said. “It will take a big push from you and me to make it happen.”