Celebrate Juneteenth in Southwest Virginia

Celebrate Juneteenth in Southwest Virginia
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It’s Juneteenth, a day many people call Independence Day, and there’s plenty to do in Southwest Virginia to celebrate.

Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19, marks the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Texas were informed of their freedom, over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation had declared them free.

Enslaved people were granted freedom through the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. However, it wasn’t until two and a half years later that slaves in Galveston, Texas were told this news. Galveston was the last place to find out. More than 250,000 enslaved people in Texas were finally free on June 19, 1865, according to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It became a national holiday about three years ago.

Assistant Professor Grace Gipson with Virginia Commonwealth University said Juneteenth gives us a chance to remember history.

“It gives an opportunity to share history that had been hidden, and it gives an opportunity to pay respect to what has happened in those origins,” said Gipson.

Gipson also said Juneteenth is a day to celebrate.

“At the time that the Declaration of Independence happened, African Americans were not free. So, we have kind of taken on the holiday. We celebrate it not for independence but for a holiday to enjoy with family and friends, but Juneteenth offers that opportunity to really show true independence,” said Gipson.

There are plenty of events taking place in Southwest Virginia if you’re looking to celebrate. Here’s a list of some of the events taking place on Wednesday:

  • Juneteenth celebration with REA/VEA/SERV touring Gainsboro and the Harrison Museum of African American Culture from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Clifton Forge Main Street celebration at Booker T. Washington Park from noon to 6 p.m.
  • C&O Railway Heritage Center hosts a photo exhibit highlighting African American railway workers. It’s available all month.
  • All national park service sites have free entrance on Wednesday.
  • The Academy Center of the Arts in Lynchburg is also hosting an event called ‘Juneteenth: Freedom’s Song’ this Saturday starting at 7:30 p.m. The center is hosting a gospel concert featuring local performers.

Chief Programming Officer Michelline Hall with the Academy Center of the Arts said what she hopes other people will take away from the concert.

“I really truly hope that we leave people feeling inspired, feeling uplifted [and] also educated so they can see that aspect of American history and culture but also bring some of that joy and the celebration,” said Hall.

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