TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - On June 17, President Biden signed Juneteenth into being a federal holiday. This comes just two days before celebrations begin in Greater Lafayette.
For Associate Professor of History at Purdue University Cornelius Bynum, it helps Americans to remember what shouldn't be forgotten.
"And so Juneteenth is a really important symbol for recognizing the profound shortcomings of the nation when it comes to living it's core principles," Bynum said.
Juneteenth celebrates the news of emancipation arriving to Galveston Texas, two years after the emancipation proclamation of 1863. While enslaved African Americans had been freed under the law, post-reconstruction and Jim Crow laws have limited their freedoms. Bynum says with the federal recognition of Juneteenth, the country is making an important first step to recognizing it's shortcomings.
"And first steps should be followed by other steps and so long as that's the process, then I think it should be acknowledged and celebrated as an achievement moving forward, but it can't be the only thing the federal government does," Bynum said.
Of course, Juneteenth has been celebrated by friends and families for years, including here in Greater Lafayette. Deanna McMillan is the director for advancement for the Baptist Student Foundation at Purdue.
"We were ahead of the curve, and that just goes to show... I'm from New York City, big city, but you know I have never been to a Juneteenth celebration in New York City. We had this planned before it was a national holiday," McMillan said.
She echoes Bynum's belief that today is a day the country moves forward.
"So I think this is another step in that direction where we can say it out loud that there was an injustice done, and we can move on and not dwell in that," McMillan said.
The Baptist Student Foundation is holding a Juneteenth celebration Saturday at Tapawingo Park in West Lafayette from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.