La Crosse business owner from Texas shares significance of Juneteenth for her family

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)– State and local leaders are recognizing Juneteenth and celebrating its historical significance as the end of slavery.  But even 155 years later, many Americans have never heard of it.

It was January 1, 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. But it was limited in many ways, so black people were still enslaved in the state of Texas, according to the Smithsonian.

“We must remember the moments like Juneteenth that have changed our nation for the better,” said Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas), during a ceremony in Galveston Friday.

It would stay that way until two years later, on June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas. They told more than 250,000 people they were free.

“For me, it’s a little awkward that so many people are celebrating Juneteenth,” said Adrian Lipscombe.

Lipscombe is the owner of Uptowne Cafe in La Crosse. She’s also a Texas native.

“It’s not even technically a Texas holiday, it is a black Texas holiday,” Lipscombe said.

That’s because of the original annual celebrations. Lipscombe said blacks still weren’t allowed to congregate, so in the years afterward, formerly enslaved people bought their own land as a workaround.

“I.E. Emancipation Park in Houston. So having that area to be able to celebrate their freedom,” Lipscombe said.

It also served as an opportunity to find family lost when the enslaved people were stolen or bought.

“This was a place once a year that you could definitely meet and a family member might show up and you could find that family,” Lipscombe said.

For her, it takes on a vastly different meaning tied to her ancestors. She celebrates with family and eats the traditional foods she grew up with.

“The red drink, barbeque is very associated with it, the emancipation cake,” Lipscombe said.

Lipscombe thinks Juneteenth could and should be a national holiday because it does define the end of slavery. But, she wants people to educate themselves about the roots of the day.

“I hope out of all of this, especially across the nation is that they really understand what Juneteenth means,” Lipscombe.

There are a number of celebrations for Juneteenth in our area.

Juneteenth Celebrations

‘Black Leaders Acquiring Collective Knowledge’ organized a free showing of the movie ‘Just Mercy’ at the Rivoli Theatre.
Doors open at 6:30 and the movie beings at 7 p.m. on Friday. On Saturday, there will be a virtual movie discussion, self-guided history tour and motorcade celebration.  Plus, There’s a virtual celebration on Sunday evening.

More information on the events can be found here.