According to www.juneteenth.com, “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 the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation — which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
“Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another, is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another, is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All of which, or neither of these [versions] could be true. Certainly, for some, President Lincoln’s authority over the rebellious states was in question. For whatever the reasons, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.”
Today, the website reveals Juneteenth celebrations are organized throughout the country. Along with recalling the past, events also look toward the future, placing emphasis on self-improvement, achievement and education.
In its inaugural year, Cartersville’s offering is spearheaded by Summer Hill Heritage Group member Charles Foster, who previously lived in Texas. Now a Cartersville resident, he is bringing the observance to his current town of residence to accommodate those who wish to celebrate Juneteenth.
“Our hope is for everyone to learn from that time that the information was late getting to the black people, to slaves,” Foster said. “But the thing is, we want to learn from that the sensitivity of all races, all cultures, to be as one, being respectful of each other’s culture. So we want to celebrate [and emphasize] self-development, respect [for] each other and the achievements that [have] come from [then] till now.”
On June 19, Cartersville’s observance will begin with a Joint Community Bible Study at St. Luke A.M.E. Church, 130 Jones St., at 7 p.m. The offerings will continue June 21 with a Juneteenth Celebration of Black Freedom at the Summer Hill School Football Field from 5 to 8 p.m.
The Juneteenth programs will conclude on June 22 with a 9 a.m. parade from the Cartersville Civic Center to the Summer Hill Complex, where activities and entertainment will be ongoing until 8 p.m.
Striving for a well-attended debut offering, Foster hopes the Juneteenth event will continue to grow each year, involving people of different ages and races.
“[On June 19] we want the community to come together and have Bible study and to educate the community also,” said Foster about the event that also will feature refreshments at 6 p.m. “When most of the celebrations have been [presented], the whole city joins in [so] this time we’re trying to get some of the officials to come and be involved.
“Then it won’t be a black thing. It’s going to be a cultural thing. But we’ve got to get it off the ground before we can go and ask other people to help out. But we still have offered for all our city officials to participate and [learn] why you want to celebrate Juneteenth.”
For more information or to serve as a vendor, call Foster at 770-387-6520. To secure a 10-foot-by-10-foot spot, vendors need to contact Foster by Wednesday and pay a $25 daily fee.