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First Juneteenth Celebration

Posted on Wednesday, June 19, 2024 at 2:00 pm

Tracy Harris – Staff Writer

Most Americans know about President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Announced on September 22, 1862, it, declared “on the 1st day of January 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State…shall be then, thenceforward and forever free.” Unfortunately, it had almost no impact in Texas due to the tiny number of Union troops that were there to enforce it.

More than two years later on June 19, 1865, U.S. Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3 informing Texans that all enslaved people were free. Over time, the day became Juneteenth- a combination of the words June and 19th.

(L) Marshall County Mayor Mike Keny and (R) Lewisburg City Manager Bam Haislip

The first official Juneteenth celebration in Lewisburg and Marshall County took place on Saturday, June 15, 2024, from noon to 6 p.m. at Rock Creek Park. There were vendors, food trucks, a DJ, bounce houses, face painting, bingo, a real tattoo artist, and more.

Jessica Radley

Organizer Jessica Radley thanked the sponsors for supporting the inaugural event, her family for enduring the madness, and vendors for signing up. The main speaker for the day was Novella Ford. City Manager Bam Haislip said a few words. Marshall County Mayor Mike Keny was present.

Ford gave Juneteenth history from the stage. “The first celebration took place in 1866 where communities hosted sporting events, cookouts, prayers, dancing, parades, and spiritual songs.”She described the elements of Juneteenth celebrations that have survived from 1865 to the present.

The first element of Juneteenth celebrations is church services. Ford said, “Faith and gospel music were deeply important for helping many Black Americans to endure slavery, particularly given the biblical parallels with the bondage of the Israelites. These cultural elements have continued to strengthen Black Christians through modern history as they have coped with systemic racism.”

The second are the cookouts. While everyone loves a cookout, Ford described them as an important communal event for Black Americans – a way to come together and spend time together with family, friends, loved ones, and even a whole neighborhood or town.

Novella Ford

Another element is the foods that signify the resilience that slaves had amid bondage: strawberries, watermelon, BBQ, and red velvet cake. “The color red symbolizes the blood that was shed during slave capture, slave travel, and slave trade,” said Ford.

Good luck foods are another big part of Juneteenth celebrations. Black families have passed recipes down orally.  Juneteenth recipes are no exception. They include a twist for the holiday – a dash of red. Collard greens are cooked the normal way but some red peppers are included. She added, “Another good fortune food, black-eyed peas, which are typically eaten on New Year’s Day, are combined with red rice.”

Radley has already announced the next Juneteenth Festival and we are sure it felt good to do that.  On Monday, June 17, she wrote, “Save the date because the 2nd Annual Marshall County Juneteenth Festival is already set for June 14th, 2025.”