Juneteenth Celebration Returning To Bridgewater

Posted: June 17, 2014

Staff Writer

On June 19, 1865, an era ended in the United States.

Major General Gordon Granger led a cadre of 2,000 Union soldiers to Galveston, Texas, where he announced the contents of General Order No. 3, better known as the Emancipation Proclamation.

Issued by then President Abraham Lincoln, the proclamation freed slaves throughout the confederacy.

Though the measure had been enacted nearly two-and-a-half years prior, many slaves had been left uninformed, and were therefore continuing under the system.

Following the announcement, thousands of former slaves took to the streets of Galveston, beginning what would become an annual celebration known as “Juneteenth.”

Each year on June 19, festivals, parades and picnics are held, marking the day slavery ended in Texas — the final state to abolish the institution.

For the past seven years, the Harrisonburg-Rockingham County NAACP has hosted a local celebration; this year’s will be held from 6-8 p.m. June 19 at Wildwood Park in Bridgewater. The event is free and open to the public.

“[During earlier celebrations,] they typically would have meat, such as lamb or beef, rather than the leftovers, as well as strawberry soda,” said Esther Nizer, president of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham County NAACP chapter.  “So, we try to mirror that in our celebrations.”

In addition to music and food, as well as the iconic strawberry soda, the history of Juneteenth will be discussed. Individuals of all ages and backgrounds are encouraged to attend this celebration, which Nizer calls a “family-friendly” event.

“All people should come together for this event, not just African Americans because we weren’t the only ones that suffered,” added Nizer, noting that many worked toward the abolition of slavery.

“It’s a celebration of freedom and a celebration of people coming together.”

Elaine Blakely, membership chair and press and publicity chair of the HRC NAACP chapter, feels Juneteenth is an element of black history that oftentimes gets “lost in the shuffle” with younger generations, and should continue to be brought to the forefront.

“This [event] is a way to become more knowledgeable and stay aware,” she said.  “If we don’t keep [Juneteenth] prevalent and upfront, it will be lost.”

Contact Matt Gonzales at (540) 574-6265 or mgonzales@dnronline.com

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