SATURDAY 6/20: Juneteenth Festival at ESCC Features Music, Food, Speakers, Games
The annual Juneteenth Festival begins at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, June 20, with the Walk for Sickle Cell. Other events start at 10 a.m., all at the Eastern Shore Community College in Melfa. Bring lawn chairs and blankets. Musical includes the Shore’s own Black Elvis, Snowflake, Dot Giddens, and The New Heavenly Wings over Jordan as well as the FTC Praise Dancers and the Anointed Angel Praise Dancers.
The local annual Juneteenth Festival has been taking place for over 15 years, largely due to the efforts of longtime Northampton NAACP leader Jane Cabarrus and the Juneteenth Coalition. They are joined this year by sponsors Optima Family Care, PNC Bank, Sickle Cell Association, Inc, Accomack County Parks & Recreation, and the Eastern Shore Community Services Network.
Join friends and neighbors for a great day of games, music, food, fun, and fellowship. Plan to attend for a good time and a brief recognition of that day in 1865 when Texas slaves learned of their freedom and celebrated in spontaneous jubilation.
There will be games, information booths, and lots of food available for purchase. Admission is free, but please pre-register for the Walk for Sickle Cell at (757) 442-2139. For booth space, please contact Barbara Boggs at (757) 787-3900.
“Juneteenth,” also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. While the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1863, the freedom promised in the law applied only to slaves in Confederate states. Citizens of Northern and border states were still slave-owning until the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1865. The word Juneteenth is a port-manteau combining “June” and “nineteenth,” and has come to represent “a day on which honor and respect is paid for the sufferings of slavery.”
Even though news of the emancipation of slaves in the Southern states spread quickly, especially through the southern border states, Texas remained isolated for much of the war. It was not until after Lee’s surrender in April 1865, that Union General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas, to announce the end of the war and secure Texas. Among the proclamations he read to the people of Texas was General Order #3:
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former master and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages . . . .”
The reaction to this news quickly went from shock to jubilation. Even with nowhere to go, many now-freed slaves felt that leaving the plantation would be their initial step to real freedom. The original celebration is said to have occurred on June 19, 1865, in Galveston, as a result of this belated declaration of freedom for former slaves.
In the years that followed, recounting the memories of that great day in June 1865 and its festivities served as a motivation for Juneteenth celebrations, which often included brightly-colored clothing and a wide range of activities such as rodeos, fishing, barbecuing and baseball. The event also focused on education and self-improvement, too, so guest speakers were included and elders were invited to tell stories of the past.