On Saturday, Raleigh came together to celebrate Juneteenth, a day commemorating the emancipation of the last enslaved people in America.

The city’s fourth annual Juneteenth celebration filled Harvey Hill at Dix Park, a vibrant scene hosted by WRAL’s Lena Tillette and Aaron Thomas.

“Black communities have celebrated this day since 1866,” Lena Tillette, WRAL anchor and host of the event said.

The event drew hundreds to the park, who enjoyed food, music, and fellowship under the shade of the trees.

The mood was one of “celebrating brighter futures, even amid a dark past,” as another speaker noted.

A somber detail emerged: Dix Park itself once housed a plantation.

Nick Neptune, representing the Dix Park Conservancy, shared this fact with the audience.

The celebration also featured educational elements.

Speakers like Earl Ijames, a curator at the North Carolina Museum of History, delivered talks focused on Raleigh’s Black history and the achievements of its Black community.

“Freedom began right here, on this very ground,” Ijames said, referencing the arrival of Union troops led by General Sherman in 1865, who brought news of emancipation.

Speeches were interspersed with official pronouncements of thanks from Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin and prayers offered by Reverend Dr. Larry McDonald of St. Paul AME Church.

All marking a special place, and a special day.

“As we unite to celebrate this Juneteenth, give us strength, energy, wisdom, knowledge and understanding,” Rev. Dr. Larry McDonald, St Paul AME Church said.