INDIANAPOLIS — This Sunday is Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States.
Celebrations are happening across the Circle City this weekend and one group is putting a delicious twist on its Juneteenth event.
The holiday is a hidden piece of history during President Benjamin Harrison’s presidency.
"We looked at his involvement with civil rights and his partnership with Black civil rights activists and then we focused in on Dolly Johnson," Special Events & Marketing Manager at the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site, Whitney Ball said.
Laura "Dolly" Johnson, a Kentucky native, was appointed by President Benjamin Harrison, which made her the first Black chef in the White House. Creator and owner of Sweet Creations Lechelle Jameson hopes to honor Johnson on Juneteenth.
"He fired his French Chef, hired Dolly Johnson, and went on to have her in the White House and she went on to be a business owner after that. So, we want to celebrate her, and this is a perfect time to do so," Ball said.
President Harrison’s appointment of Dolly Johnson happened in the late 1800s, a few years after Juneteenth was celebrated.
This brings us to the Juneteenth Foodways Festival, happening Friday at the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site.
"We have wonderful restaurants and caterers here in the city. We're excited to highlight them and have them create some of her dishes to have a taste of Dolly Johnson here at the site," Ball said.
Each vendor participating in the Juneteenth Foodways Festival will re-create some of Johnson’s most famous recipes.
"I have a strong sweet tooth. I must have something sweet every day. So, I started baking a lot," Jameson said.
Jameson will re-create Johnson’s famous Lady Finger Cookies.
"They're shortbread cookies. They're not shaped like the round cookies that you see in the store, but they're shaped like your finger. They're slender-type shortbread cookies," Jameson said.
Jameson said it's an honor to celebrate a woman like Johnson, who shattered glass ceilings for Black chefs while honoring the history of Juneteenth.
"Being resilient and courageous. That's what she represents to me." Jameson said.
"It's not just coming here to eat and partake in the food, desserts, and things of that nature. But also, to get that true education because a lot of people don't know the background of Dolly Johnson, or the Juneteenth history, so that alone to me is a very special twist." Jameson said.
The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site hopes to highlight a different civil rights activist each year for Juneteenth.
The Juneteenth Foodways Festival is happening Friday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. It's free to the public, but you must register in advance.
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