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The history of Juneteenth and its commemoration in the Quad Cities

Vendors selling jewelry at the Quad Cities Juneteenth celebration held at LeClaire Park on June 15. There were over 60 vendors at the community celebration.
Tracy Singleton
Vendors selling jewelry at the Quad Cities Juneteenth celebration held at LeClaire Park on June 15. There were over 60 vendors at the community celebration.

Tracy Singleton is the festival organizer of the Quad Cities Juneteenth celebration, an annual event held the Saturday before Juneteenth, June 19th.

"We were able to form this partnership with the city of Davenport and Common Chord for their river music series, so we went back to the river to LeClaire Park. We had probably the most vendors we've ever had in the history of Juneteenth; we were at over 60 vendors," Singleton said. "Food trucks, entertainment, culture, it was a day for everyone. That was the amazing thing for me was that everyone was there; this is not just a Black holiday; this is a community celebration. It was nice to see all types of people, young, old, all different cultures there at the event."

Singleton says Juneteenth goes back to 1865 when Black Americans in Texas were left in the dark about their emancipation.

"There are many theories as to why that happened. One is that it happened right before
crop season so the farmers and landowners in Texas wanted to get one last season of work in with them, which is why they didn't let them know they were free," Singleton said. "Nonetheless, it took almost two years for a Confederate soldier to get to Texas to let them know they were now free. It was on or about June 19th, hence the name Juneteenth."

Singleton says the Quad Cities has been commemorating Juneteenth for over 30 years. The celebration is similar to how Black Americans celebrated their freedom.

"They had what they call a jubilee, a celebration," Singleton said. "It was food, it was dance, it was coming together as a community, and that's how they celebrated. So that's how we celebrate Juneteenth as a nation and as a community."

Singleton says people can start learning about Juneteenth and America's history of slavery, Black Codes and Jim Crow laws at any time.

"Our freedom wasn't in 1776; it was in 1865, and that was intentional," Singleton said. "I'm always a big proponent that education and engagement create understanding. To support, to attend, just learn something new about Juneteenth is something that you can do and it doesn't take a lot to do that."

Singleton is also the Executive Director of the Together Making A Better Community Lincoln Resource Center, a non-profit in Davenport that is "Black-owned, Black-led and focused on empowering the Black youth, Black families, and Black communities in our area.

Brady is a 2021 Augustana College graduate majoring in Multimedia Journalism-Mass Communication and Political Science. Over the last eight years, he has reported in central Illinois at various media outlets, including The Peoria Journal Star, WCBU Peoria Public Radio, Advanced Media Partners, and WGLT Bloomington-Normal's Public Media.