Juneteenth commemorates end of slavery

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 16, 2000

Natchez residents are honoring the day black slaves were freed with the annual Juneteenth celebration this weekend. From an African fashion show tonight to a rodeo Saturday night, the weekend’s events will mark the oldest celebration of the ending of slavery. The celebration began in Galveston, Texas, in 1865.

This year’s theme is &uot;sankofa,&uot; which means &uot;reaching back to move forward.&uot;

&uot;You reach backward to understand, and then you move forward,&uot; said James West, who with Royal Hill has helped organize this year’s event.

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&uot;This is really the first major black holiday celebration,&uot; West said.

Following tonight’s African fashion show at the courtyard of the Natchez Visitor Reception Center, organizers will host a sponsorship party. Tomorrow’s events begin at 10 a.m. with a memorial walk from the site of the Forks of the Road — once one of the largest slave markets in the Southeast – to Melrose, the antebellum house which is now part of the Natchez National Historic Park.

A family fun day with entertainment from four area gospel choirs will take place at Melrose from noon to 6 p.m. And on Saturday night, the Rough Riders will host a rodeo at Liberty Park Arena.

Natchez’s Juneteenth celebration began Thursday night with a screening of the film &uot;Amistad&uot; at the NAPAC Museum of Afro-American Culture.

NAPAC member Shirley Wheatley said the celebration, which focuses on &uot;education and achievement,&uot; is gaining popularity. &uot;Juneteenth seems to be picking up nationwide,&uot; she said.