‘We’ve been doing it for over three decades’ Norwich celebrates Juneteenth

New London

Norwich, Conn. (WTNH) — This is certainly not the first Juneteenth commemoration in Norwich.

“We were the first city to acknowledge Juneteenth in this state and we’ve been doing it for over three decades,” said Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom (R).

This Juneteenth though may be a special one.

“It is now the eleventh of our federal national holidays,” said Cong. Joe Courtney, (D) Connecticut.

That bill was signed into law by President Biden Thursday and Friday, Cong. Courtney brought an embossed copy of it back from Washington.

“I want to present this to you today to the Norwich NAACP and all the great work that you’ve done to get us to this historic moment today,” Cong. Courtney said during the presentation. “So thank you very much,” “Thank you,” answered Shiela Hayes, President of the Norwich branch of the NAACP, to a round of applause. 

In stark contrast to that jubilation, Reverend David Good read the details of a bill of sale for a toddler in 1729.

“Jane about three years old was sold to a man in Lyme quote to have and to hold, possess, and enjoy and as his own proper estate free and clear to him and to his heirs during her natural life,” Rev. Good.

The first Juneteenth was celebrated in Galveston, Texas, where the last slaves learned of their freedom on June 19, 1865 – two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared their freedom, was signed by President Lincoln. 

“There’s more that needs to be done and we are far from finished,” said Ashnaelle BiJoux, member of the NAACP Robertsine Duncan Youth Council.

The Norwich Freedom Bell served as the backdrop to the Thursday commemoration. It was installed in 2012 to mark the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. 

The city has a special connection to President Lincoln. It was one of his campaign stops when he ran for president.

The Freedom Bell rang as the Juneteenth flag was raised.

“I know in my heart that in the near future all that we have wished for all the hard work that we have done will come,” said BiJoux.

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