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June 2024

Juneteenth and its legacy of bravery

By Community, News
Members of 25th Infantry Regiment who saved countless lives in the 3M acre wildfire of 1910. Photo credit: PBS American Experience. Although Juneteenth has long been celebrated in the African American community, it has remained largely unknown to most Americans until recent years. On June 19, 1865, the last state to enforce slavery, Texas, was ordered by an executive decree to free over 250,000 enslaved individuals. The newly freed people began the decades-long struggle to transform their lives, families, and country. The historical legacy of Juneteenth is resiliency and bravery; both of which were pivotal traits in helping save hundreds of lives and an entire town during the devastating wildfire of 1910 that swept through the lush, dense mountains of northern Idaho and Montana. Black soldiers from the 25th U.S. Army Infantry Regiment were sent to Wallace and Avery, Idaho to help fight the fires and evacuate the towns. Three million acres, entire towns, and 87 people were wiped out by the fire. However, were it not for the heroism and bravery of the Black soldiers, the death toll would have been far worse. Surrounded by raging flames hundreds of feet high, the men evacuated women and children and fought back able-bodied men who were trying to flee and made them help fight the fire. They stood their ground and built backfires that redirected the wildfire which is credited with saving the town of Avery and countless lives. As one survivor noted, “Black, yellow, white – I don’t care what color they were. They were…
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