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June marks the observance of Juneteenth, a federal holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. June is also Pride Month, an opportunity to celebrate LGBTQ+ pride and honor the 1969 Stonewall riots. Learn more about Indiana’s history and connection to each observance below!
Indiana’s Connection to Juneteenth
Shortly after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the 28th United States Colored Infantry Regiment was formed. The regiment was made up of black men from all over Indiana who traveled to Indianapolis to volunteer their service. There were believed to have been between 4,000-5,000 black troops stationed in the Indianapolis neighborhood of Fountain Square.
Soon after their formation, the 28th United States Colored Infantry Regiment was sent to battle and participated in some of the most important battles of the Civil War, such as the Siege of Petersburg, the Battle of the Crater, and the Battle of Appomattox, which helped end the Civil War. As the most highly decorated unit, thousands of black troops from across the country were sent to join them to form the XXV Army Corps.
As part of the XXV Army Corps, thousands of Indiana troops were sent to Galveston, Texas, in June 1865. While there, they accompanied Major General Gordan Granger in liberating enslaved persons who were oblivious to the fact that they had been freed two years before. These actions lead to what we now know as Juneteenth today.
In 1865, the soldiers were discharged, and many returned to Indianapolis, establishing several neighborhoods on Indianapolis’s south side. Two of these neighborhoods still exist today, Norwood and Barrington, which are still the home of some of the 28th United States Colored Infantry Regiment soldier’s descendants.
How Can I Celebrate Juneteenth as an Ally?
In 2021, June 19th, also known as Juneteenth, became a federal holiday. This day marks the date when slavery was completely abolished in the United States. Juneteenth not only honors the emancipation of the last people to be enslaved but also is a day to remind us to continue to strive for equality. So, as an ally, how can you celebrate this day? Below are some resources to assist you in supporting such an important day in our history.
- Support a Black-owned business
- Consume Black media and art
- Educate yourself on Black history and culture
- Donate to organizations that fight for racial justice, equality, and equity
History of Pride in Indiana
The first Gay Pride Week in Indianapolis was hosted by the Gay Peoples Union and the Metropolitan Community Church in 1976. The event was by invitation only since there were no safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community then. The event consisted of workshops, a blood drive, a picnic, and a youth disco camp. In 1980, activists formed the first Pride Week Committee during a convening at the Essex Hotel House, where attendees wore masks to conceal their identities.
During the mid-1980s, Justice, Inc., a local social services organization, organized celebrations consisting of banquets, fundraisers, and donation drives. They continued the traditions of picnics and donation drives and shifted to raising funds for AIDS research in 1984. Additionally, hundreds from the LGBTQ+ community gathered on Monument Circle that year to learn about their rights, register to vote, socialize, and exercise their Constitutional Right to freedom of public assembly. The goal of the gathering was to increase visibility in hopes of coming together in solidarity to decrease police harassment and bring attention to the unsolved murders of members of the LGBTQ+ community. Although the gathering on the circle was considered a success, Pride Week celebrations would remain private for the next six years.
In 1990, inspired by the 20th anniversary of New York City’s first pride week, Indiana activists organized the state’s first large outdoor Pride event, “Circle Celebration” on Monument Circle. The event aimed to generate awareness and visibility while educating and entertaining the community. In 1995, Indy Pride, Inc. was established and became the governing organization for the annual celebration. By 2012, the event had grown to over 300 vendor booths and 80,000 attendees, and that year also marked the first year of the Cadillac Barbie Parade, which later became what we now know as the Indy Pride Parade.