TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– Dozens celebrated Juneteenth at the Vigo County Historical Society and Museum on Sunday for a performance and tour celebrating the lives of seven historical figures with connections to Terre Haute.
Dr. Crystal Reynolds wrote a historical production that was performed by seven local people, celebrating the lives of Frederick Douglass, George Ward, Grace Wilson Evans, Evangeline Harris Merriweather, Willa Brown, Benjamin “Scatman” Crothers and Dr. Greg Bell. After the play, the museum led tours highlighting its African-American history exhibits.
Reynolds said she wants to help educate people on this history, and the holiday represents a great time for people to learn.
“Black history is everybody’s history. So we need to learn out national history, we need to learn our state history, but we all live in Terre Haute so we need to learn our history in Terre Haute. We need to know it because it affects us, we need to know where we’ve been, we need to know our present and it helps us with the future,” Reynolds said.
One of the performers was Terry Ward, who is the great-grandson of George Ward. George Ward was lynched in Terre Haute in 1901, and now has a memorial dedicated to him in Fairbanks Park.
Terry Ward said it was important to talk about both the good and the bad when discussing Black history.
“If we don’t talk about the past, if we don’t know what the experiences of the people of the past were, who’s to say we won’t go through the same thing over and over again,” he said. “As long as society knows what happened in the past and they’re willing to recognize the faults as well as the mistreatment of people, then hopefully we’ll never do it again.”
Terry Ward said Juneteenth is a holiday that everyone should celebrate given how significant these stories are in our history.
“This is not just a Black person’s holiday. This is a holiday for the American people because those people who were recognized here in Terre Haute today, they made the American experience even better for all Americans,” Terry Ward said.
Reynolds echoed those sentiments.
“Juneteenth is everybody’s holiday, and African-American history is everybody’s history. And I want people to know that. It’s not just Black people, it’s everybody’s history and we should embrace it and celebrate it.”