Visitors gather at Fort D for Juneteenth event
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - Visitors came from across the area to Fort D for their Juneteenth event on Sunday.
This historic site is celebrating the emancipation of the African American slaves, some who have even served within the walls of Fort D.
Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in Texas when word of the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War reached the state. It has been celebrated in African American communities around the country for more than 150 years.
We talked to the Cape Girardeau Research Center for the Missouri State Historical Society Associate Director Bill Eddleman who said many of the men who helped build Fort D were free men of color.
“Either because they were free before the war or most often, they freed themselves by walking away from the farms where they were enslaved and sought the protection of the Union Army here in Cape,” Eddleman said. “So, we commemorate their service and we commemorate the service of those who enlisted in 1863 and thereafter.”
Eddleman said they tried to get anyone to work there at the time they built the forts. They were putting up the forts very quickly due to a fear of an attack.
“They actually hired some enslaved people, there were free men of color, German immigrants and others who either lived in Cape or the surrounding area, Union soldiers and then after the Battle of Fredericktown they actually had some confederate prisoners of war helping with the fort construction here.”
Juneteenth became a federal holiday on June 17, 2021 when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, which designates June 19 as Juneteenth Day.
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