The Celebration of Juneteenth is coming to the Atlanta area June 16.
On June 19, 1865, union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended and that all slaves were free. This was two and a half years after President Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans because of 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. The celebration of June 19th was coined “Juneteenth” and today celebrates African-American freedom while encouraging self-development and respect of all cultures.
The weekend of events commemorating the oldest known celebration of slavery’s ending will kick off in Glover Park on the Square in downtown Marietta Friday with an “Evening Under the Stars” from 6-11 p.m. Saturday, activities will be held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and the festivities will close out with a Gospel Fest on Sunday at 3 p.m.
There will be attractions suited for the entire family including moonwalks, food, live entertainment, vendors, music, raffle prizes along with a health fair and much more.
The Atlanta History Center will host a free Juneteenth family program on Saturday and Sunday exploring the themes of freedom and family history through talks, stories, and museum theatre.
This year, events will include performances of three original Meet the Past museum theatre productions – including the Juneteenth-themed “The Order of Freedom,” which explores the impact of the issuance of General Order No. 3, by General Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865, and the challenges faced by a couple beginning the journey from slavery to citizenship. As well, there will be a lecture and signing by the author of the new pictorial history book, “Atlanta and the Civil Rights Movement, 1944-1968,” and an in-depth program providing tips on African-American genealogical research.
On Saturday at 2 p.m., “Tracing History with Emma Davis Hamilton” will take place in McElreath Hall, Member’s Room. Hamilton, past president of the Metro Atlanta chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS), will lead a detailed 90-minute session designed to help participants work with the important records of Freedman’s Savings Bank. This Washington, D.C., institution was created after the Civil War, to assist newly emancipated enslaved and African-American soldiers. Its records contain valuable genealogical information such as birthdate, birthplace, where raised, former owner, employer, occupation, residence, and relatives. The bank not only provided services for African Americans, but white citizens as well. Hamilton has 26 years’ experience as a genealogy researcher.
Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., lean in, watch, and listen, as Atlanta storyteller Mama Koku shares stories from freedom, through slavery, to sweet freedom again. If the spirit hits, she might ask you to come up on stage and help her tell it.
Along with the celebration, AHC guests can explore signature and traveling exhibitions, historic houses, and gardens and trails.