Toria Hale and Melissa Morrison wanted to change that.
The duo launched Johnson City’s first annual Juneteenth celebration in six years and hope to educate families of the importance of black history. The freedom celebration will be held in Kiwanis Park Saturday, Aug. 11, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and will serve as a get-together with food, entertainment and speakers who will delve into America’s history with slavery.
“This is important because it’s celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation,” Hale, the celebration’s co-host, said. “It’s important for the younger generation to learn this part of history especially. I didn’t even know about this celebration until I was in my 30s.
“It seems to be a part of history that was forgotten.”
Juneteenth is a national event that celebrates the day enslaved people were emancipated in Texas on June 19, 1865, two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. The Proclamation symbolically freed slaves in rebelling states in the Confederacy, but excluded border states not in rebellion where slavery was legal.
After the surrender of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced “General Order No. 3," providing for the total emancipation of those held as slaves.
The order was announced in June, so why celebrate in August? Well, locally, Juneteenth has been combined with another significant holiday, Tennessee’s “Emancipation Day.”
In 1863, Andrew Johnson served as the military governor of Tennessee before his presidency. On Aug. 8, 1863 — according to a widespread belief — Johnson freed his own slaves. The day has been celebrated as Emancipation Day in Tennessee for decades.
Hale and Morrison combined the two celebrations for one large bash to feed, entertain and, most importantly, educate.
“We want to have a good family fun day while educating people,” Hale said. “It’s free and is donation-based. We hope to get some attention from this year’s celebration and grow from it.”
Sponsors of this event include Keystone Market, CBP Services Inc., Do the Righteous, Midtown Mecca and 40 Acres and a Mule. The event will be held at 717 W. Market St., Johnson City.