Juneteenth held in Jonesboro

By Trina Trice

In its first year, the Clayton County Juneteenth celebration went on without fail at the Arnold Ballpark in Jonesboro.

The Clayton County Black History Center organized the event to commemorate one of the oldest known traditions that celebrates the ending of slavery.

Juneteenth gets its name from the story that explains how the slaves in Texas found out about the Emancipation Proclamation, issued by President Abraham Lincoln.

On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger led Union soldiers to Galveston, Tex. Granger told Texans the war was over and that the enslaved were free. The only problem was that Granger delivered the news two and a half years after Lincoln's proclamation, which became official Jan. 1, 1863.

"I don't know if a lot of people know about it," said Nedra Ware, chairwoman of the Clayton County Board of Education and teacher in Fulton County.

"The slaves were long free, but the people in Texas didn't hear about it until (much later). I think it's interesting."

Thursday's celebration wasn't just educational, but more about fun and fellowship. There were balloons and a moonwalk for children. For adults, there was an information table for the newly created RainbowPUSH Coalition and a high blood pressure screening facilitated by Betty Jackson.

Jackson, 67, first heard about Juneteenth several years ago, but she remembers the Emancipation Proclamation was used by her family and church community as a means to inspire future generations to strive to be the best.

"Growing up in Newark, N.J., I think a lot of what I learned was not so much from my parents, but from Sunday school," she said. The Emancipation Proclamation "lends itself more to my parents' generation. I know my grandparents worked in a white man's house, cleaning the house. They all talked to me about it. They told me and my sister we have the freedom now; if you put your mind to it, you can do it. It's what I've passed down to my daughters."

Wesleyan College sophomore Allyssa Green attended the celebration with family members.

She learned about Juneteenth "in the ninth grade," she said. It was about the Texans who "found out slaves were freed in 1865. (Juneteenth) is significant because we should remember it's part of the past, even though it's not a holiday. I know maybe it's not here, but I have friends that are from Texas and they have a big celebration for it."

Although the Black History Center doesn't have a permanent home, yet, members make an effort to promote black history events year-round, said Gail Davenport, organizer of the Juneteenth Celebration.

"Black history is 365 days of the year," she said. "Every quarter the Black History Center will celebrate something. Other states have started celebrating Juneteenth. We think it's time that we start celebrating it in Clayton County. We (the celebration) will grow and grow."