Two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, a document freeing slaves in the Confederacy, the enslaved in Texas learned they were free. Thus was born Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating freedom.
For this writer, growing up in the 1930s and ’40s, Emancipation Proclamation Day was the freedom holiday celebrated on Jan. 1 in our community. For it was on Jan. 1, 1863, that Lincoln signed the important document. And it usually was on Jan. 1 each year that our church, St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal, in the small village (at that time) of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, held a community-wide celebration: Emancipation Proclamation Day. There was music, speeches and a sermon stressing the importance of the occasion — commemorating the end of slavery in our country. This was a piece of history taught primarily in our church.
It took me more than 40 years to learn of Juneteenth. Back then, my knowledge came primarily from Ebony and Essence magazines. This was how I learned that on June 19, 1865, slaves in Texas were told that they were emancipated when the Union Army marched into Galveston, enforcing the Emancipation Proclamation and ending slavery in the Confederacy. The news was met with rejoicing, prayers and feasting by newly freed slaves, as well as the creation of the annual celebration.
Juneteenth officially became a federal holiday on June 17, 2021, when President Joseph Biden signed a proclamation, making June 19 a national holiday. Parades, religious services and parties are among the celebratory activities held across the nation.
Locally, the Cherokee County NAACP commemorates this holiday annually with a free community-wide observance. Its first Juneteenth event, held last year on June 18, was very successful. Different segments of the community came together to enjoy the festivities. This year, there are plans underway to continue the tradition with a celebration on June 17, 1-5 p.m. at The Mill on the Etowah in Canton. There will be activities for the entire family, including music, games, vendors, free health screenings and free COVID-19 booster shots. Everyone is invited to this joyous celebration of freedom. For more information, visit https://cherokeecountyganaacp.org.
Events Outside Cherokee
- Concert on the Green: A Juneteenth Celebration will be held June 17 at Logan Farm Park in Acworth. The event opens at 5 p.m., with live music from 7-9 p.m. Bring blankets and folding chairs to join the celebration. Food and refreshments will be available for purchase. For details, visit https://bit.ly/413C9BW.
- The 20th annual Cobb County NAACP Juneteenth Celebration will be June 16-18 at the Marietta Square. Festivities kick off at 7 p.m. Friday. On Saturday, the Cultural Festival will feature food, merchandise and information vendors, a health fair and entertainment, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday’s theme is Salute to Our Heroes — Happy Father’s Day, 2-6 p.m. Admission is free. For information, visit https://cobbnaacp.org/flyer.
- The 11th annual Juneteenth Atlanta Parade and Music Festival is set for June 16-18 at Centennial Olympic Park. Festivities include a 5K Freedom Run, Walk and Roll, marching band parade battle, world record African drum circle, natural hair show, dance competitions and more.
For details, visit www.juneteenthatl.com.
– Margaret Miller has been a resident of Cherokee County for the past decade. Her writing hobby led her to become a columnist for community and daily newspapers.