Monday, May 25, 2015

Juneteenth Day History Celebration June 6, 2015

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the
ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas. He brought news that the war had ended and that all slaves were now free. It had been two and a half years since President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 was official. Many stories were told as to why they had not known but none could be verified as the truth.

The reactions to this profound news ranged from shock to jubilation. Freed slaves had several options: Remain and develop new relationships with their former owners or leave immediately, depending upon the conditions on the plantations. They could go north which was a logical destination or find family members in neighboring states of Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Festivals and Food Celebrations Freedom from slavery was cause for celebrations and all sorts of activities were started with many continuing as traditions across the nation today. June 19th was shortened to “Juneteenth”. Rodeos, fishing, barbecuing and baseball games are a few of the typical Juneteenth activities witnessed today. Juneteenth almost always focuses on education and self-improvement. Speakers, elders, elected officials/candidates for office and ordinary community residents are part of the programs. In larger cities, the day is actually celebrated on the 19th with time off from work. Parades, bands, professional entertainers and politicians participate and whole blocks are closed to traffic.
Certain foods became popular and synonymous with Juneteenth celebrations. A variety of foods and beverages was always provided but specialties such as lamb, pork and beef were cooked for this special day. Even dress was an important element in the early Juneteenth customs because in some areas, there were laws that prohibited or limited the proper dressing of slaves. Thus, Juneteenth gave ex-slaves the chance to toss their ragged garments and to adorn more fitting and stylish clothing, often taken from their former “masters”.

This year the Voters League will honor the memory of Claudell
Weaver, the founder of the Juneteenth Day Celebration in Louisville. It was during her presidency that Juneteenth was started in June 1984 very near the actual June 19th day on the Voters League grounds at 307 Vance Street. After several years at the League grounds, it was moved a few blocks to Vance Street Park. During the presidency of Calvin Hampton, the League felt more space was needed and wanted to revitalize Dean Park where it continues to be celebrated and promoted as a fun-filled family day. The event had continued for consecutive years until 2014 due to the damages to Dean Park caused by the tornado.

The choices of foods presented at Juneteenth Day celebrations are limited only by the imagination of the vendors. As you walk leisurely among the vendors, you will find barbeque meats, fried fish, grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, polish sausage, hot chicken wings, ice cream, snow cones , roasted corn, nachos and cheese, assorted baked goods and beverages. Local entertainers; Music; Line Dancing; Candidates; Games for children; and Cake walks.

Door prizes will be awarded hourly but you must be present to win.
The Voter League will have a tent set up with voter information, raffle tickets and door prize tickets. Don’t forget to get your raffle ticket…a $1.00 donation gives you the chance to win $100.00, $75.00 or $50.00. Door prize tickets are free and offer you an opportunity to win a gift from our local businesses or League members. Information about the history of the League, its activities and how you can become a member and an informed voter will also be available in an easy to read pamphlet.

Please plan to attend the 30th Juneteenth Day Festival on June 6, from 12:00am until 5:00pm at Dean Park in the Center Ridge Community on Hwy 15 S.

For more information, contact booth chair Janice Hopkins at 773-7743 or 705-2019 and entertainment chair Linda Hampton 773-6220 or 803-5354.