FORT LAUDERDALE – Juneteenth, the June 19 commemoration of the date in 1865 on which the last of the enslaved African-descended population in the United States learned of their freedom, is widely considered the true end of chattel slavery.
On June 19, 1865, Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Grander entered Galveston, in East Texas, announcing to the residents that the Civil War had ended two months earlier in a Union victory; as well as that the Emancipation Proclamation, which had freed millions of slaves throughout the Union when it became official two and a half years earlier on January 1, 1863, was now the law of the land in Texas.
In Florida, slaves were freed a month earlier on May 20, 1865. “The presence of Union army troops in Tallahassee, the state capitol, signaled the defeat of the Confederacy,” said Tameka Bradley Hobbs, assistant professor of history at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens. Union Brig. Gen. Edward McCook read the Emancipation Proclamation on the steps of what is now the Knott House in Tallahassee to officially end slavery in Florida.
Juneteenth in Florida was first observed in 1866, with celebrations in communities large and small throughout the state, Hobbs said. Work and school were canceled in observance of the holiday.
“In Tallahassee, African-American school children decorated the graves of the Union soldiers buried in the Old City Cemetery. These were huge, community-wide celebrations,” she said.
ON THE RISE
More than a century later, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States is increasingly being recognized and observed.
As part of this year’s Juneteenth activities, for example, Project R.E.A.C.H., Inc. is asking faith-based, civil, human rights and community organizations and individuals to participate in a national “Prayer, Reconciliation, Healing and Atonement Week,” June 16-22. (See commentary on page 4A).
Over the next week multiple organizations are commemorating and educating the South Florida community regarding Juneteenth.
The Annual Sunrise Ancestral Remembrance of the Middle Passage Ceremony, for example, is set for Sunday, June 23, 5:45 a.m., at Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Drive (off Rickenbacker Causeway; toll: $1.75 per car), on Virginia Key island in Miami. Gates open at 5:30 a.m. For other details call 305-904-7620 or 786-260-1246.
The Garret at Grand Central in Miami will host To Sir with Love (A Bohemian Room Juneteenth Spoken Word Experience, featuring poet and activist Jessica Care Moore on Wednesday, June 19.
“The theme of the night is to recognize Juneteenth and also recognition of Fathers’ Day,” said event coordinator Ingrid Bazin.
The event is for ages 18 and up and the fee is $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Doors open at 8 p.m. at The Garret at Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave. Local poets Amali of Boynton Beach and Poettis of Fort Lauderdale will also perform, and an open mic session will be held.
The African American Research Library and Cultural Center (AARLCC) in Fort Lauderdale will host its Freedom Flight: Eat, Compete & Fly Competition Juneteenth event on Wednesday, June 19.
The free, family oriented activities, particularly geared toward youths ages 6 to 12, begin at 2 p.m. at the center, 2650 Sistrunk Blvd. The program incorporates the building and flying of kites and also will celebrate Caribbean-American Heritage Month.
“The event is to remind the young people about the strength of the people of African descent,” said Desmond Hannibal, programs and exhibits section coordinator at the AARLCC. “They went through a lot in order for us to enjoy what we call freedom today.”
Contests, musical performances by local artists, a drive to enroll new library cardholders and activities to encourage learning about African-American heritage will be included. Call 954-347-6210.
The Old Dillard Museum is hosting a Juneteenth Tap Your Feet Social with Kamili Nilata on Wednesday, June 19, 6 p.m. at the museum, 1009 N.W. Fourth St. in Fort Lauderdale.
The event will feature games, seated tapping, songs, refreshments, gifts and prizes. Seating is limited, RSVP at 754-322-8828.
The Broward County Libraries Division is celebrating Juneteenth with the Northwest Library’s Blues and Sweet Potato Pie Festival, Saturday, June 15, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at Apollo Park, adjacent to the library at 1580 N.W. Third Ave., Pompano Beach.
The festival is free and open to the public, with attractions and entertainment including children’s fun activities, music and food, games and prizes,
exhibits, step dancing, three-on-three basketball, comedians and storytellers. Call 954-357-6955
In Delray Beach, the One Love-One Community Foundation is hosting the fourth annual Healthy and Free Juneteenth Celebration on Saturday, June 15 at Pompey Park, 1101 N.W. Second St. The event is free and open to all ages from noon to 7 p.m.
“We want to raise awareness about Juneteenth and recognize it,” said Barbara Haider, founder and CEO of the One Love – One Community Foundation. “We want to create an event that is family friendly that brings people out and brings the community together.”
The concept of combining the Juneteenth celebration and health initiatives is not unusual, said Haider, who added that when Juneteenth celebrations originally started, families gathered every year and made something similar to new year’s resolutions and plans to improve their lives.
“Our theme concentrates on good health,” Haider said. “Not only physical, but mental and emotional to make you a healthier person in order to be free.”
A health and resource fair will be held in the gym, noon – 4 p.m. Also featured will be bingo games for seniors, a kids game room and kids pavilion, live music and dance performances, Capoeira demonstrations, vendors, prizes, and a teen dance 8-11 p.m. ($7).
Also in Delray, the fourth annual Juneteenth Celebration, to benefit the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum, is set for Thursday, June 20, 6 – 8:30 p.m. at Crane’s BeachHouse Hotel, 82 Gleason St.
The cost is $25 in advance, $30 at the door. Tickets can be ordered online at spadymuseum.org “We invite all of our Spady supporters, friends and partners to join us for this fun summer party that recognizes a special date in the history of African-Americans and this country,” said Museum Director Charlene Jones.