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"When you know you're free; it takes it to a whole, entirely different level."

June 19 is Juneteenth. But imagine being told two years after the fact that you’re free from slavery. Lee County Black History Society highlights the history of the black community in SWFL.
Posted at 11:58 PM, Jun 19, 2024

FORT MYERS, Fla. — June 19th, 1865, is a crucial part of American history.

It was the day that a general went to Galveston, Texas, to share the news that all slaves were free under President Lincoln's leadership.

Fox 4's Fort Myers community correspondent, Miyoshi Price went on a tour at the Williams Academy Black History Museum to learn more about the significance of this day in American history.

Williams Academy Black History Museum
A look at the dream theme of the Juneteenth exhibit at the Williams Academy Black History Museum in Fort Myers.

"In our wildest dream from being slaves in this community and this country, this is where we are now.

Charles Barnes is the chairman of the Lee County Black History Society. "Black History is a part of American History", says Barnes. "Therefore, Black History shouldn't be left out."

He tells me that although the nation celebrates Juneteenth on the 19th, people in Florida found out about the Emancipation Proclamation a month earlier.

"The president sent federal troops to states like Florida on May 20, and they demanded that they free slaves," says Barnes.

President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, 1863 -- imagine being told two years after the fact that you're actually free from slavery.

So I drove around the neighborhood in Fort Myers to see what people had to say about the holiday.

juneteenth 2024 bailey phillips mildreds
For Bailey Phillips, Juneteenth makes her think of how important resilience and perseverance are in life.

Bailey Phillips was excited about the perseverance of her people after going through something so terrible.

Being a woman of color like our history is so wonderful and amazing," says Phillips, who works at the soul food restaurant called Mildred's.

Juneteenth 2024 Ft Myers
Mildred Barnes talks with her Ft Myers Community Correspondent Miyoshi Price about what Juneteenth means to her.

The significance of the day and what it must have meant to people is what strikes Mildred Barnes the most.

"Words just can't express," says Mildred. "Freedom was so important, and knowing that you're free, you know they were the slaves but were free, but they didn't know that they was free. But when you know you're free, it takes it to a whole, entirely different level."

You can visit the Williams Academy Black History Museum to see how the city has celebrated the holiday over the years.