RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Dozens of events are planned across central Virginia Friday and this weekend to commemorate Juneteenth.
This is a day recognizing when the last slaves in the United States finally received word that they were free.
“It’s the official day slaves in Texas got the word that they were free, two years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation,” said Hanover County NAACP President Robert Barnette.
Lumpkin’s Jail in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom was the site where thousands of slaves were held captive before either being auctioned off, relocated or even killed.
But on the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, dozens of people will gather across Virginia to celebrate the freedom thousands before them did not have.
“I think tomorrow’s event offers an opportunity for everyone, for their voices to be heard,” Barnette said.
While some traditional events like “Juneteenth: A Freedom Celebration” will now be held virtually, several other groups will hold celebrations Friday and this weekend advocating for change.
“We would like to make sure they understand we need more African Americans and teachers of color in Hanover,” Barnette said.
The Hanover County NAACP will hold a peaceful protest on Juneteenth to address the many concerns it has in the County including a goal to re-name Lee-Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School.
“We feel these names are symbolic racist names that’s leftover from the Jim Crow era,” Barnette said.
Meanwhile, some changes have already come.
“We must remember that black history is American history,” said Governor Ralph Northam.
On Tuesday, Northam announced plans to introduce legislation making Juneteenth a state holiday.
“It should be a holiday where we can reflect on one portion of American history,” Barnette said. “This is history that hasn’t been fully vetted if you will.”
As the historic day approaches, hundreds of people continue to march for other changes across the Commonwealth and nation.
“We need to talk about what changes are important for the community because that’s how we grow,” Barnette said.
Several municipalities and school systems have also stated they will take in Juneteenth following Northam’s announcement.
“As Petersburg City Council passed a resolution in June 2019 to adopt the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Holiday Calendar, City of Petersburg Government Offices will also be closed on Friday, June 19, 2020,” said Petersburg city officials. “Closed offices include: City Hall, City Hall Annex, Fiscal Management Building, Parks & Leisure Services, Blandford Cemetery Records Office, Petersburg Public Library, Petersburg Social Services, Petersburg Area Transit (PAT) Administrative Offices and Customer Service, and Petersburg Freedom Support Center.”
The City of Richmond and Louisa County will also observe the holiday.
“I urge everyone to use this day as an opportunity for reflection, service and healing,” said Mayor Stoney.
“As our nation works together through efforts focused on equity and justice, formally observing Juneteenth is the right thing to do,” said Bob Babyok, Chairman of the Louisa County Board of Supervisors. “This is a time to reflect as we embrace history and the way forward together.”
Meanwhile, Henrico County Public Schools announced it will close Monday in observation of Juneteenth since the day falls on a Friday which is not a workday under the HCPS summer scheduled.
“Over the past week, I’ve engaged in several emotional and difficult conversations with employees, students and community members,” Superintendent Dr. Amy Cashwell said in the message. “They’ve shared with me the trauma they are experiencing in light of the recent acts of racism, hate and bigotry seen across our nation, as well about their personal struggles for racial equity within the Henrico County Public Schools organization. While I recognize that I can never fully understand the feelings of our African-American community, I promise I will continue to bring empathy, as well as a commitment to listen and be introspective as our organization continues this critical dialogue.
Other Juneteenth celebrations happening across Central Virginia include:
- Juneteenth: The Richmond Action Alliance will gather at the Robert E. Lee monument for a Juneteenth celebration starting at 10 a.m.
- Self Preservation: An online conversation hosted by the Virginia Humanities and the Virginia African American Cultural Resources Task Force on the state of Black historic preservation in Virginia.
- The event at noon is free and open to the public, but registration is required
- Juneteenth Peaceful Protest: Hanover Co. NAACP will gather to advocate for the name change of two schools, combating systemic racism in the county, and appointing Dr. Jerome Ross to the school board
- Gathering at 3:30 p.m. at the Mechanicsville Library
- Juneteenth The Block: Celebration of African Americans at Monroe Park
- Scheduled to start at 6 p.m. at Monroe Park in Richmond
- Colonial Williamsburg: Will host special programming online and at Custis Square, site of an ongoing multi-year archaeological investigation. Custis Square and the programs below are all free and open to the public Friday.
- Nation Builders Rev. Gowan Pamphlet and Edith Cumbo (portrayed by actor-interpreters James Ingram and Emily James) share narratives of tenacity, spirituality and hope through stories and song. Canvas Tent, 10-11 a.m. 1-2 p.m. and 3-4 p.m.
- Discussion of the challenges of researching free and enslaved African Americans and how interpretation brings their stories to life for guests. Out-of-character interpretation with artifacts on display in the site’s Kitchen Tent.
- Mary Carter and Senior Archaeologist Meredith Poole
- 10-11 a.m., 1-2 p.m. and 3-4 p.m.
- Hope Wright, Willie Wright and Meredith Poole 11 a.m.-noon and 2-3 p.m.
- Actor interpreters Katharine Pittman and Deirdre Jones interpret the stories of Alice, Jack and Martha Custis by the Black Walnut Tree, 11 a.m.-noon and 2-3 p.m.
- At 2 p.m. on Facebook Live, Colonial Williamsburg hosts a discussion to celebrate and commemorate the end of slavery in the United States.
- Throughout the day, Director of Archaeology Jack Gary and Public Archaeologist Crystal Castleberry discuss past archaeology and the goals and findings of the current project at various locations on the site.
- Juneteenth Rally for Justice: Community members will gather at Virginia Union University at 1:30 p.m. for the event
- Hope, Healing, Wholeness: A Virtual Juneteenth Celebration: KMOSS Presents will host a virtual Juneteenth celebration starting at 3 p.m.
- Juneteenth 2020: A Freedom Celebration: The Elegba Folklore Society will hold a virtual celebration at 5 p.m.
- You can RSVP to the event here.
Copyright 2020 WWBT. All rights reserved.