People gathered downtown Sunday for the city’s first official Juneteenth Jubilee, celebrating the day black slaves were liberated.

Juneteenth is a holiday commemorating the moment on June 19, 1865, two months after the surrender of General Robert E. Lee, when union troops informed slaves in Galveston, Texas that they were free. Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had technically freed slaves two years before, but it did not apply to slave-holding border states and many slave owners kept news of slaves’ freedom from them. 

Attendees gather for Louisville's first Juneteenth JubileeKyeland Jackson |

Attendees gather for Louisville’s first Juneteenth Jubilee

The jubilee started with a parade from the KFC Yum! Center to the Abraham Lincoln statue. There, attendees ate from food trucks, listened to music, watched performers danced and applauded poems from local poets Hannah Drake and Lance Newman II.

Esther Gardner brought her two daughters to the celebration; she said it was important for them to learn about its history.

“I want them to know the importance of Juneteenth and what it means to us as a culture, as a black community, everywhere,” she said. “It’s important because we are celebrating our history, our freedom, and I want them to know what our ancestors went through – what they invested for us to have our freedoms and liberties today.”

Esther Gardner and her two daughters preparing to march for the Juneteenth JubileeKyeland Jackson |

Esther Gardner and her two daughters preparing to march for the Juneteenth Jubilee

Sunday’s celebration was originally scheduled for June 19, but was delayed because of the weather. The new date was also historically significant, commemorating the day the Constitution’s 14th amendment was ratified. That was the amendment giving citizenship to all people “born or naturalized in the United States” — including slaves.

This story has been updated to clarify that this was the first official Juneteenth Jubilee in Louisville, not the first time the holiday has been celebrated by city residents.