Join us for Juneteenth celebration

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 14, 2009

The time has come for the Miss-Lou’s 15th annual Juneteenth celebration. What is Juneteenth, and why is it important to many within the black community? Please allow me this opportunity to add some historical perspective, and an explanation as to why we celebrate.

People of African origin were brought to this continent in 1619 to be held in bondage as slaves. This tragic circumstance lasted hundreds of years in this country that was established as the “land of the free.” It was the forced labor of the enslaved that contributed greatly to the economic growth and development of this nation.

By 1861 this nation was torn apart by a Civil War, which had at its roots, states rights to self determination, economic stability and the status of the enslaved. In 1863 President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in an effort to gain control of, and the preservation of the Union. Thus, granting freedom to those who were in bondage throughout the states of the confederacy. Those enslaved in the Miss-Lou area obtained support and protection when the Union troops occupied Natchez after the fall of Vicksburg. It took two additional years for Union Troops to reach Galveston, Texas, where Union General Gordon Granger announced to the masses that they had been freed two years earlier.

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The date was June 19, 1865, or Juneteenth as it later became known. On this date the formally enslaved had their celebration of freedom.

What started as a local community, and then statewide celebration in Texas, has grown to become recognized by our nations black communities as the last official day of government sanctioned slavery in these United States.

Here in the Miss-Lou, the celebration will take place on the weekend of June 19-21 with the following activities. Starting on the 9 p.m. Friday the Krewe of Mer will sponsor a “Jumping June Freedom Jam,” a celebration of music and dance, at the Natchez Community Center. Admission to this affair will be $10. On Saturday there are two activities planned. At 10 a.m. we will be celebrating the Miss-Lou’s 1863 Freedom Summer, the Civil War roots of Texas’ Juneteenth and paying homage to the thousands of enslaved ancestors who had been sold at the Forks of the Road Slave Market (Liberty Road and Saint Catherine Street). Here you will be able to experience a spiritual libation ceremony, a tradition which origins can be traced back to the African continent. This will be led by Ser Sesh Ab Heter-C.M.Boxley and is sponsored by the Friends of the Forks of the Road.

Later on that afternoon starting at 1 p.m. there will be what we call a “freedmen’s cookout” or family fun day at North Natchez Park (Youth Center). Food, fun, games and activities will be the order of the day, so bring out whole the family.

At 3 p.m. Sunday this years Juneteenth celebration will conclude at the NAPAC Museum — 301 Main St. — with the dedication of the Richard N. Wright Exhibit Hall and the opening of the museums newest exhibit, the “Finley Collection” of West African Art and Artifacts.

We invite you to come celebrate the history of emancipation and freedom at the 15th annual Miss-Lou Juneteenth celebration.

Darrell White is the director of the NAPAC Museum.