WINCHESTER — It's important to never forget your roots and history, otherwise you're apt to repeat it, said local African-American historian Judy Humbert.
That's a lesson organizers of Fremont Street Nursery's first Juneteenth celebration kept in mind during a cookout Friday for the new federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
President Joe Biden signed legislation Thursday establishing the holiday.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, about 2½ years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
Freda Roberson, executive director of the Fremont Street Nursery, which provides affordable child care, said the idea of a Juneteenth cookout was perfect because the African-American community has often celebrated Juneteenth with barbecues.
Fremont Street Nursery first opened on Pall Mall Street in 1943 as the Negro Daycare Center.
"So why not have a barbecue here at the past Negro Daycare Center," Roberson told The Star.
Humbert shared with attendees that she attended the daycare center when it was on Pall Mall Street. One of her favorite memories was to perform in the plays. She also fondly remembers her outdoor graduation ceremony, with pink and blue caps and gowns, and printed invitations for the event.
Two of Humbert's three children attended Fremont Street Nursery, as well as her youngest grandson.
"The nursery has served generation after generation of families," Humbert said. "The nursery has been a source of pride in the Black community."
She added that it also has been a "place of comfort" for working mothers, knowing that their children are in a safe and loving environment each day.
When Humbert lived on Fremont Street, she said she would watch her children walk to the nursery from her porch.
Fremont Street Nursery provided Humbert with her first summer job, an honor she still feels to this day. She added that being asked to speak at an event for the nursery feels just as honorable.
Humbert urged the Fremont Street Nursery board to learn about the nursery's rich history.
"This history is rich and wonderful, don't ever overlook it," she said.
Humbert, who has known Roberson since she was a baby, thanked her for keeping Fremont Street Nursery running over the past 26 years.
"You don't know the impact that you are having each day on the lives of others," Humbert told her. "Continue to love what you do, and it does show on the glow of your face when you talk about Fremont Street."
After Humbert's speech, she gave Roberson a big, long hug.
As children ate and played at the celebration, Roberson said they're never too young to learn about this important day in history.
"History is very important. That's how we can all come together," Roberson said. "You start them when they're young and that way it's never forgotten. It's important that [Juneteenth] is never forgotten."
The idea for the Juneteenth celebration at Fremont Street Nursery originated before it became a federal holiday. Candace Davenport, a First Bank vice president in Winchester and one of the nursery's board members, brought the two organizations together for the event. She said the bank, which sponsored Friday's celebration, wants to explore ways to become a more inclusive bank that embraces its community.
"The support of the bank is phenomenal," said Davenport, who grew up in the same neighborhood where Fremont Street Nursery is located and has had family members involved with the nursery over the years.
Though she now lives in Stephens City, Davenport continues to stay involved with the nursery. For her, it's important to maintain her roots.
"Haven't forgotten. I can't. I don't want to," she said about the nursery's community.