COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio History Connection showed guests what a Juneteenth celebration would've looked like in the late-1800s. 

What You Need To Know

  • This is the Ohio History Connection's first Juneteenth celebration

  • The celebration was held at the Ohio Village, which is set in the 1890s 

  • The jubilee honored African American dance, art, food and song 

  • This will become an annual event 

Juneteenth is a holiday that honors and recognizes the day that slaves in Texas found out about the Emancipation Proclamation and all slaves were officially free. At the Ohio History Connection's, Ohio Village, the time is always set to a typical day in the 1890s.

In honor of Juneteenth, they showcased what a celebration might look like back then.

“It's a natural fit, this is about our history, this is about American history and surprisingly some people don’t know what Juneteenth is about, so I think it's our responsibility to stand up and tell the story,” said Lyn Logan Grimes, who works for the Ohio History Connection. 

Visitors learned about various traditions through art, music, food, reenactments and dance. Lawrence Lemon founded Ohio Black Dance to share and educate others about the importance of dance and movement.

“Dance is important because it's an important part of culture, an important part of history, and an important part of our celebration, especially during this time,” said Lemon. 

Lemon performed what’s known as the Cakewalk. The dance traces back to the 1800s, when slaves were forbidden from performing many African movements and dances. African Americans invented the cake walk to mimic the moves of white slave owners.

“It garnered the interest and the respect from the slave masters at the time and they allowed them to dance,” said Lemon. “When we tried to do our traditional dances, they were shut down.” 

Lemon is now free to move and dance however he wants, but still pays homage to dances like the cakewalk to show how far things have come. Lemon said, making the dance fun and interactive, allowed people to learn and celebrate with one another.

“Being able to come and celebrate from people of all walks of life, being able to share in this history, share in the celebration, because we are here to celebrate freedom and dance is a way that we celebrate our freedom and that we use our freedom through our entire bodies,” said Lemon. 

The Ohio History Connection plans to host this celebration every year in honor of Juneteenth and looks to include even more Ohio artists, dancers and historians.