Joliet gets set to celebrate Juneteenth

Luther Johnson stands outside the Casseday house in Joliet. Johnson wants to convert the 1851 building into a museum depicting local African American history and African American contributions to the U.S. military. Nov. 9, 2021.

The future African Descendants Military and Historical Museum will be the center of Juneteenth events in Joliet on Wednesday.

The museum, which will be devoted to African-American contributions to the U.S. military and local Black history, is a work in progress.

But the public can check on the progress from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the museum site, 575 E. Jackson St.

“We want to give the public time to come up and talk with us about the museum,” said Luther Johnson, director of History on Wheels, the Joliet-based organization that is creating the museum.

The event will include an official groundbreaking and exhibits of artifacts that will be in the museum, which Johnson expects to open on Juneteenth 2025.

Also on Wednesday, the Joliet Area Historical Museum will host a fundraiser for the museum, which will feature a fashion show and comedy show.

The fundraiser will be on the rooftop of the Joliet Area Historical Museum located at 204 N. Ottawa St.

Tickets are $40 and can be bought at the door.

A temporary sign on the Casseday House in Joliet announces plans to convert it into The African Descendants Historical Museum. Feb. 9, 2024.

Both events will have a Juneteenth theme, Johnson said.

“I’m going to speak a little bit about what Juneteenth is,” he said regarding activities at the museum site.

U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville, who represents the 14th District that includes Joliet, also will speak at the Jackson Street event.

The museum building itself will not be open to the public.

The building is the 19th Century Casseday House, which was moved to its present location from the corner of Jackson and Collins streets where a Thorntons gas station now stands.

Thorntons funded the relocation of the building in March 2020 after local preservationists argued that it should not be torn down. Johnson acquired the building in 2023 from the Will County Historical Society, which was not able to fund its plans to create a museum for local African American history.