Louisiana’s oldest Juneteenth celebrations continue on heels of legislation

juneteenth 29 yrs
juneteenth sadie roberts joseph
Sadie Roberts-Joseph

In 1976, Baton Rougeans first celebrated Juneteenth with a parade. Then annual celebrations occurred sporadically in the capital city until historian Sadie Roberts-Joseph began hosting annual celebrations consistently in the late 1980s. However, the city of Alexandria hosted the state’s first city-wide public celebration.

It happened nearly a decade before Roberts-Joseph and other community leaders were able to secure a legislative statute recognizing Juneteenth Observance Day in 2003.

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day, is a holiday celebrating the 1865 emancipation of all African and Black people who were enslaved in the United States.

Earlier this month on June 2, Rep. Larry Selders‘ bill 554 which designates Juneteenth as a state holiday passed the House unanimously. (At the time of publishing, it had not been heard in the Senate)

Juneteenth in Alexandria

“To our knowledge the first public celebration of Juneteenth was held in 1993 in Alexandria, Louisiana,” wrote Carolyn Frazier, organizer of the 29th Annual Juneteenth Let’s Do This Together Celebration. Similarly, residents in Donaldsonville began their official Juneteenth celebrations in 1998. They will celebrate on June 5 this year.

According to the Central Louisiana Juneteenth Cultural Celebration, the inaugural celebration was organized by former Alexandria councilman and current Rapides Parish School Board member John Allen, former Rapides Police Juror Joe Fuller, and fundraiser Allen Semien Sr. More than 500 people participated in the one-day event.

The annual celebration did not occur in 1995 and in 2020 due to the pandemic. In 1996, the Alexandria News Weekly and publisher Leon Coleman sponsored the celebration in order to continue the event. Once held at the Alexandria Amphitheatre with more than 15,000 participants, this year’s 29th celebration will be June 10-19 at locations across the city. Participants engage in entertaining activities that are designed to raise cultural awareness and better understanding of each other.

Likewise, organizers in Donaldsonville have hosted Juneteenth celebrations for 23 years . Started by former Donaldsonville Mayor B.J. Francis Sr. and his late wife, Janet Ganes Francis. It was by the River Road African American Museum and other volunteers in the community, including Tamiko Francis Garrison, Allison Hudson, and the City of Donaldsonville.

Upcoming celebrations

Other Juneteenth celebrations are:

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