From Juneteenth to the 4th of July—A Time to Get Inspired and Be Involved!

By Kylie L. McCormick

On June 19th, 1865, Union troops marched into Galveston Bay, Texas with news of the Emancipation Proclamation, liberating more than 250,000 people enslaved in that state.

Civic Season

Despite President Lincoln’s issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1st, 1863, freedom for the enslaved was not immediate. It took more than two years of war to free all of the people held in bondage in the rebellious states.

Meanwhile, people enslaved in the border states that remained loyal to the Union through the war had to wait for liberation until Dec. 6th, 1865, with the ratification of the 13th Amendment.

In Texas, the June liberation became a statewide holiday, which as of 2021 is our newest federal holiday. Soon after, History Made by Us—an organization formed to spread enthusiasm for history among young people—linked our newest holiday to our oldest, the 4th of July, with a movement called Civic Season.

Civic Season encourages everyone to better understand our past and inspires us to shape our future. Each generation has strived to bring our founding ideals of freedom, equality, justice, and opportunity to life. Now, it is our turn!

Here in the Equality State, our history is intimately linked to that fight for equality and opportunity. Freedom and citizenship here go hand in hand: When the territory of Wyoming was established in 1869, Black men living in territories had the right to vote. Governor John A. Campbell ensured that it would be possible, and even sent a U.S. marshal to protect the Black men of South Pass City while they cast their ballots in the September election.

A prominent democrat in South Pass City, William H. Bright, opposed enfranchising the recently emancipated. He actively campaigned against the 15th Amendment—which would recognize the voting rights of Black men in the states—and won his election to the first Territorial Council (now Senate) that fall. During the 1869 session, Bright introduced a bill for woman suffrage and worked to get it passed through to the governor’s desk where it was signed into law on December 10th, 1869. Despite his racism, Bright’s bill made it possible for Black women to cast their ballots in the 1870 election.

History is often complicated. Our founding ideals of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” stand in stark contrast to the cruelty of slavery practiced across our nation at the time. Despite Wyoming’s founding ideals of equality, we still see women under-represented in our elected offices and with one of the highest wage gaps in the country. Did you know that the same year Wyoming recognized women’s right to vote, the legislature also passed a bill requiring male and female teachers to have equal pay? Still, according to research conducted by the Wyoming Women’s Foundation in 2022, a woman working in education earns 85 cents for every $1 earned by a man.

Each generation must take responsibility for our lofty ideals and strive to bring them to life. Get inspired and be involved this Civic Season with events hosted by the Wyoming State Museum.

Civic Season in Wyoming kicks off this Sunday, June 16th with a fun festival at Westby Edge Brewing. Join us for music, raffles, and stop by the Wyoming Historical Society’s booth to share YOUR story.

Civic Season Festival
Sunday, June 16, 2024
3 PM - 6 PM
Westby Edge Brewing

Later that week, visit the Laramie County Library for a Community Conversation on Tuesday, June 18th, hosted by Braver Angels. Founded by a republican and a democrat who are married to each other, Braver Angels works to foster kind and productive conversations especially when we disagree.

Community Conversation:
Should the government provide shelter/housing to everyone who needs it?
Tuesday, June 18, 2024
6:30 - 8:00 PM
Laramie County Library, Cottonwood Room
Facilitated by Braver Angels 

Ready for a fun game of Jenga and Democracy? Come to the Wyoming State Museum in Cheyenne on June 20th, to play and learn with the Wyoming Humanities Council.

Democracy Under Construction
Thursday, June 20, 2024
7:00 - 8:00 PM
Wyoming State Museum, Classroom
Facilitated by Wyoming Humanities

Learn how to get more involved in our communities with this round table hosted by Braver Angels on June 25th at the Laramie County Library in Cheyenne.

Make Your Mark:
Becoming a well-informed and active citizen
Tuesday, June 25, 2024
6:30 - 8:00 PM
Laramie County Library, Cottonwood Room
Facilitated by Braver Angels

And finally, join me for pizza, Wyoming trivia, and a presentation on the fascinating history of our State Flag at the Wyoming State Museum on June 27th. Be prepared with your Wyoming history knowledge for a chance to win a $25 gift card at trivia before learning more about the $20 contest that gave us our State Flag. Use the link below to register now and be entered into a raffle for another $25 gift card.

A Slice of History:
The Wyoming State Flag and The Women Who Made It Fly
Thursday, June 27, 2024
7:00 - 8:30 PM
Wyoming State Museum, Classroom

[Kylie L. McCormick is an assistant editor on]