How Mississippians Celebrate June 19 Weekend | Texas News
By MICHAEL GOLDBERG, Associated Press/Report for America
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Communities across Mississippi are commemorating June 19 with events ranging from history-themed dinners to live music performances to street festivals. Most of the rallies aim to tell a story about the significance of the country’s new federal holiday.
“Juneteenth isn’t just a celebration of food and art. It’s a celebration of substance,” said Reena Evers-Everette, the daughter of Mississippi civil rights activists Medgar Evers and Myrlie Evers- Williams “Juneteenth is about opening our eyes and our minds, gathering the courage to truly understand what our shared truths are.”
The holiday commemorates the date when news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached the slaves of Galveston, Texas. The proclamation, signed by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, declared all slaves in the Confederate States free. Some of the newly released were unaware of their freedom until U.S. Major General Gordon Granger reached Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865, to enforce the proclamation.
“Juneteenth is about acknowledging that slavery was America’s first original sin. And we’ve been putting it under the rug, behind the barn for so long,” Evers-Everette said. now, with the overturning or attempts to overturn so many civil rights laws, Mississippi has come a long way, but there is still a long way to go to become a truly egalitarian state.
Juneteenth should be about sharing knowledge so everyone can better understand our nation’s racial history, said Pamela DC Junior, director of the Mississippi Museum of History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson.
“If you don’t know why you celebrate, why celebrate?” she asked.
Admission is free all weekend of June 16 to both museums, which weave the state’s history into stories told by archival documents.
Also in Jackson, the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center hosted its first victory celebration dinner on Friday with honored guests including Hezekiah Watkins, who was a young teenager when he and other activists were arrested in 1961 for challenging segregation at a Jackson bus terminal, and James Meredith, who in 1962 became the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi.
In Vicksburg, a June 19 Heritage Festival was held on Saturday with the theme of “Celebrating Freedom.” In the Mississippi Delta region, Tunica County hosted its 2nd annual June 19 celebration.
President Joe Biden signed a law in 2021 making June 19 a national holiday. The move marked the first time the federal government has designated a new holiday since approving Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983. But several states, including Mississippi, chose not to follow the federal government’s lead. to create a public holiday on June 16.
In addition to celebrating social progress, some Mississippians view Juneteenth as a time to honor family history.
“I call out the names of my ancestors because I want them to understand that I will never forget them,” Junior said. “I want them to know that I will never let them down in anything that I do every day.”
Michael Goldberg is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mikergoldberg.
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