On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bill establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
Celebrated annually on June 19 to remember when the Emancipation Proclamation reached Galveston, Texas, and freed the last enslaved people in the U.S. in 1865, this year’s event at Lyles Station, Indiana’s last remaining Black settlement from the Civil War era, was especially poignant.
“We felt that we were definitely blessed to have this celebration with the national figure, and it’s a legal holiday,” says Stanley Madison, chairman of the Lyles Station Historic Preservation Corporation.
Evansville Living spoke to Madison about Lyles Station in the May/June 2010 issue. Since then, the settlement has built a shelter house donated by Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana, an 1830s log cabin, and a new greenhouse. The next milestone will be the Lyles Consolidated School’s 100th anniversary in February 2022.
The school has operated as a museum since 2003 and remains a symbol of what Madison says is Lyles Station’s main focus: education and awareness about the impact of its farmers on southern Indiana.
“African American farmers were really not written about in the history books, and it wasn’t recognized in the public eye until here in the 21st century,” he says. “The individuals that leave our museum get a chance to hear some really valuable history with opening the eyes of what African Americans have contributed as free African American farmers.”
Lyles Station remains home to about 15 families, including Madison, whose family has farmed there for three generations. More than 200 years old, the site will continue to host Juneteenth events as the holiday gains national recognition the Black community has given it since 1865.
Photo provided by Indiana Landmarks.