Detroit commemorates abolition of slavery with first Juneteenth celebration

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A Freedom Party in honor of Juneteenth in downtown Detroit, marking the end of slavery in the United States. 

It was the first celebration of its kind hosted by the city of Detroit. But it is so much more than that. 

Juneteenth dates back to 1865 when on June 19th union soldiers arrived in Galveston Texas to tell the slaves there that the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed some two years ago. It was shocking and devastating for many who had remained in bondage.

"They worked for two years before they knew they were free," said Conja Wright.

It wasn't just celebrating history for some people like Conja, its acknowledging part of how she, and others like her, are able to sit in Spirit Plaza freely on a Wednesday afternoon.

"These are my ancestors too," said Wright.

Juneteeth is the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery for blacks in America. 

"Juneteenth is something most don't know about," said Tamika Webb. "I wanted to come down, hear the stories and be a part of the whole movement."

Wednesday's celebration in Detroit is also the first time the city says it has officially organized and recognized the event, complete with food trucks owned by black business people.

The event marks the end of an insidious part of American history while exploring the struggle post-slavery.

RELATED: Gov. Whitmer proclaims June 19 as Juneteenth Celebration Day in Michigan

FOX 2: "There still is a lot to be done in terms of education, poverty, criminal justice, do you see this as a moment to collectively have this discussion?"

"I do," said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. "These are hard conversations to have and the difference in perception between police officers and residents a lot of times. What do we have to do to bring them together. There is a way to reach out and say you are important because you are in the city, you are valued and you are going to have the same opportunities as everybody else."

Juneteenth also featured storytellers, a drum circle, traveling exhibits and a performance by the Mosaic Youth Scholars Orchestra.