NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Celebrations took place across Nashville Saturday in honor of Juneteenth, commemorating the emancipation of the last enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas. One of those celebrations was held at Fort Negley.
“Never before have I ever seen so many people in Middle Tennessee celebrating Juneteenth,” said Jeneene Blackman, CEO of the African American Cultural Alliance.
Nashvillians of all ages and backgrounds gathered for the celebration.
“In 1864 some soldiers came here and they were African American and they brought not only themselves as a sacrifice, they also brought skills, money, and everything they had to build this fort,” said Blackman.
One of them was Gary Burke’s great-great-grandfather. He was able to stand atop the hill his grandfather once stood - a Union fort that housed thousands of soldiers and enslaved laborers.
“As a soldier they’d probably be guarding the fort doing garrison duty, making sure that the fort was safe and secure at all times,” said Burke.
On Juneteenth, attendees learned about men like Burke’s grandfather, while enjoying walking tours, fireworks, and even a proclamation from Mayor John Cooper.
“We’re on hallowed ground and I know the ancestors are looking down, are jubilant here on Juneteenth, representing the 10,133 African American soldiers who fought in the Civil War," he said. "The 200,000 sailors and soldiers of African descent who served in the Civil War all across the country.”
As crowds across Nashville reflect on the past, it was an opportunity to come together for the future. “It’s not only a Black thing, it’s an American thing. To have the opportunity to commemorate Juneteenth is for all people and all nations,” said Burke.