Montana Historical Society

Big Sky ~ Big History

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Celebrate Juneteenth

at the

Montana Historical Society!

The Montana Historical Society is hosting a three-part Juneteenth celebration on June 18 starting at 1:30 p.m. in the MHS auditorium. The nation’s newest federal holiday commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in the U. S. The holiday was first celebrated in Texas, where on June 19, 1865, in the aftermath of the Civil War, enslaved people learned that they had been declared free under the terms of the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation. Afternoon activities include a lecture and book signing, a presentation led by Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins, an ice-cream social, and a guided African American heritage tour around Helena. The public is invited to attend one or all three programs.

Juneteenth at the Montana Historical Society

  • Book cover for Race in the Wild West

    1:30 p.m., "Race and the Wild West"
    Montana Historical Society Auditorium
    Lecture and book signing by Laura Arata,
    Associate Professor of History at Oklahoma State University

    Arata’s book, Race and the Wild West: Sarah Bickford, the Montana Vigilantes, and the Tourism of Decline, 1870 – 1930 is about Virginia City resident Sarah Bickford, the nation’s first African American female public utilities owner and a heritage-tourism entrepreneur.

  • 3:00 p.m., Celebrating Juneteenth
    Montana Historical Society’s Front Lawn

    Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins will briefly describe the origins and significance of the Juneteenth Celebration and issue a proclamation honoring the Juneteenth holiday. Then descendent of African American Montana pioneers J. P. Williams will share a few thoughts on African Americans’ contributions to the Treasure State. After the short ceremony, the Friends of the Montana Historical Society will serve ice cream and punch on the Montana Historical Society’s front lawn.

  • 4:00 p.m., African American History Tour of Helena

    MHS community preservation coordinator Kate Hampton will lead a tour train excursion around Helena stopping to talk at significant African American heritage sites. The tour is now full. If you would like to be added to a waiting list, please email Christine Brown at Or, join us near the train after the 3 pm ceremony to see if no-show seats become available.

W.R. Dorsey Groceries-Hay-Grain Store in Helena, MT ca. 1899-1929
W.R. Dorsey Groceries-Hay-Grain 900 8th Avenue in Helena
[Walter Dorsey with his 2 daughters in doorway]
Photograph by Edward Reinig ca. 1899-1929
MHS Photo Archives, PAc 74-104.266 GP