MILWAUKEE — On Juneteenth, the grassy area off of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Concordia has become a place where a group called Company F 29th Infantry United States Colored Troops brings history alive.
To tell the story of African Americans in the Civil War, it helps to dress the part.
"What I'm wearing would definitely be a Sunday outfit, something that I would wear to either go visiting or wear to church," said Carla Brockman, a member of the Company F 29th Infantry USCT.
"It's the basic uniform that a United States Colored Troop would've worn from 1864 through 1865," said Rickey Townsell, also a member of Company F 29th Infantry USCT.
For years, friends Townsell and Brockman have been part of Milwaukee's Juneteenth Day parade and celebration, leading the parade then taking time to teach others about the only Black unit from Milwaukee that fought in the civil war.
"It wasn't until I joined this unit that I found out about our heritage, and I don't want other young Black people, young people in general, growing up in Wisconsin and not knowing the contribution that we have made," Townsell said.
They also teach about the crucial roles Black women had following the troops.
"They were nurses. Those who could read or write came to the encampment and taught the soldiers how to read or write. They were cooks. They were launderers," Brockman said.
New for 2021, the group will re-enact the moment in 1865 when slaves in Galveston, Texas first got word they were free.
"It means a lot. I wouldn't be doing this if it didn't mean more than just a holiday," said Townsell.
"To me, it's pride just to tell the story," Brockman said.