by Robin Kemp
It took a while–two and a half years–for the word to get to Galveston, Texas that President Abraham Lincoln had proclaimed all slaves in the United States free people. By the time Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee had already surrendered two months beforehand at Appomattox.
On June 19, 1865, Union Major General Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves and the connection heretofore existing between them, becomes that between employer and hired labor. The Freedmen are advised to remain at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
Every year since that day, Black Americans have celebrated “Juneteenth” as Emancipation Day, holding cookouts, prayer services, and cultural and musical performances.
Celebrations include a lot of red food and drinks–foods like red velvet cake, watermelon, barbecue, and Big Red Soda or other “red drink”–symbolizing the blood of relatives who were held in bondage.
But Juneteenth is not just about barbecue–it’s about commemorating the moment the last of Black people held in slavery were freed.
People also dress up (because their ancestors weren’t allowed to), read General Order No. 3, the Emancipation Proclamation, and sing “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” nicknamed the Black National Anthem.
Listen to this rendition by the Spelman College Glee Club, performing in 2019 for Minnesota Public Radio, under the direction of Kevin Johnson:
The Texas Monthly has a good article, “Juneteenth and Barbecue,” with more on the connections between the holiday and its food.
Also, be sure to check out the short film “Soul of the Kitchen,” a project of the Southern Foodways Alliance and produced by Kat Hernandez. The film runs just under six minutes and documents how and why three generations of Black women in Natchez, MS share recipes orally:
Soul of the Kitchen from Southern Foodways on Vimeo.
Today, Juneteenth is still not a federally-recognized holiday, although it’s getting closer in Congress, but it is recognized in 46 states (except North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Hawaii) and the District of Columbia. Georgia recognized Juneteenth in 2011.
There’s also a Juneteenth flag, with a blue arc on top and red arc on the bottom symbolizing new horizons, with a white star symbolizing Texas (the Lone Star State) surrounded by a white starburst symbolizing new beginnings. Some flags also bear the date June 19, 1865
In 2021 in Clayton County, numerous Juneteenth celebrations are happening. Here’s a quick planning guide (please let us know if we missed one!):
- Morrow, Forest Park, and Lovejoy are set to hold their first formal Juneteenth celebrations:
- June 12, 1 p.m.-9 p.m.: Morrow’s Juneteenth Celebration takes place at 5917 Reynolds Road, presented by the Morrow Convention and Tourism Association and hosted by Donald “N.O.” Long and Wanda Smith. Enjoy food trucks (Mike Glanton’s Betty Jean, Hibachi Man 305, Dolphin’s Waterice, and more), vendors, a kid’s zone, health and wellness screenings, a beauty corner, “sip’n’smoke,” a live DJ, performances by Jukebox, Fresh the Clownsss, and Zeke. There will be a tributem as well as fireworks by Phantom Fireworks. Admission is free.
- June 18: The City of Forest Park will be closed in observance of Juneteenth.
- June 19, 4 p.m.: The City of Forest Park presents Freedom Day: A Juneteenth Celebration at Starr Park Amphitheater, 803 Forest Pkwy. The event promises family-friendly entertainment, vendors, arts and crafts, [pony rides, a mechanical bull, food trucks, bounce houses, and live entertainment. A big fireworks show will cap the festivities. Admission is free.
- June 19, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.: Chairman Jeff Turner hosts the inaugural Juneteenth Celebration and Kickball Tournament at Lovejoy Regional Park, 1935 McDonough Road. Enjoy a car and bike show, food, music, and a special performance by Tabitha King and Company. For details, contact Marion D. Calhoun at email@example.com or call (863) 528-2923. Register your kickball team online at https://bit.ly/3xnQtqP
- June 19: The Magnolia Lounge, 3029 Jonesboro Road, Forest Park and GrindTyme Entertainment present Juneteenth Atlanta: The Southern Soul Music Experience, hosted by The Blues Dr. and featuring Mr. Smoke, Uncle E, Jesi Terrell, Certified Slim, and Rico Cason. Tickets are $15 advance, $20 door, $35 VIP table. Masks are required. Doors open at 1 p.m., show starts at 8:30 p.m. Call (726) 999-7029 or (334) 560-9879 or CashApp $curtisbyarbro for digital tickets.
- June 19: Southern Tax Prep’s The Financial Literacy Institute, Inc. presents Black Wall Street: A Black Business Expo at 4140 Jonesboro Road. The event “will commemorate the 100th anniversary of Black Wall Street and the freedom of African Americans on Juneteenth, pay homage to African American heritage, and highlight the excellence of African Americans that was exemplified through the development Black Wall Street.” Exhibits by Black-owned businesses and a panel discussion with the group’s CEO and celebrity guests will cap the networking event, which is meant to “revive the spirit of Black Wall Street and close the wealth gap between African Americans and our counterparts.” Tickets are $10-$100 at https://bit.ly/3v9hY5Q.
- June 19, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.: In Riverdale, the Black People Unity Festival goes down at BPU Global Network and Events, 691 Ga. Highway 138, which promises “powerful speakers, conscious talent, live DJ, groundbreaking ceremony of the Epic Cultural and Wellness Center, and more.” This year’s theme is “The Rebirth of the Black Nation.” For details, call Dr. Angela Harris, (404) 944-8544, (470) 236-1379, or (678) 631-8306, or e-mail BPUJuneteenth@gmail.com. The event is free and there are still vendor o-penings ($100) and volunteer opportunities available.
- June 19, 5 p.m.-9 p.m.: Jonesboro hosts its Third Annual Juneteenth Freedom Festival, 155 Lee Street, presented by LaDonna Hampton and featuring family fun, a live DJ, food, and games. Details at www.ladonnahampton.com/Juneteenth.
- June 19, 12 noon: The Juneteenth Atlanta Black History Parade/March/Rally steps off from the King Center on historic Auburn Avenue and makes its way to Centennial Olympic Park. This year’s theme is True Identity = True Freedom. Visit juneteenthatl.com and follow @juneteenthatl on Instagram for updates.
- June 18-20: The Juneteenth Atlanta Music Festival takes place at Centennial Olympic Park. Visit juneteenthatl.com and follow @juneteenthatl on Instagram for updates:
- Friday, June 18: 2 p.m.-10 p.m.
- Saturday, June 19: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
- Sunday, June 20: 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
We’d love to see your Juneteenth pictures! Post them to our Facebook page!