History doesn’t usually taste this good.
Nationally, Juneteenth will mark 150 years of celebrating the day that Texas slaves learned they were free, while Mansfield’s party will observe it’s 30th anniversary.
That’s a lot of history that local organizers will be piecing together and posting on the Juneteenth Historical Walk on a the quarter-mile trail from McClendon Park West to McClendon Park East. But history is what the celebration is about, remembering the past, enjoying the present and making friends for the future. Plus, a serving of some of the best food in town, prizes, games, a disc jockey, raffle and a lot of fellowship.
“Brenda’s and my goal is to be diverse,” said Norman Norwood, who re-started the event 30 years ago with his wife, Brenda, after the custom faded away in the 1960s. “If you can bring the community together, it can last a lifetime.”
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The free event honors June 19, 1865, the day Union troops led by Major Gen. Gordon Granger landed in Galveston and spread the news that the slaves were free, two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. For decades, blacks in Texas celebrated the anniversary with picnics and family reunions. The tradition began to die out during the Civil Rights movement, but has regained some of its popularity.
The Norwoods reignited Mansfield’s Juneteenth celebration in their front yard with their family, Norman Norwood recalled. Since then, the celebration has grown to about 600 people spread across McClendon Park West, run by a committee of organizers.
“To me, one of the unique things about the way the Norwoods do the Juneteenth celebration is that it’s like the Fourth of July, it celebrates all of our freedom, setting everyone on a path of freedom, no matter your heritage,” said Susan Luttrell, who is helping organize the event.
Brenda Norwood, a retired teacher, puts it this way.
“Respect and appreciation for all of our differences grow out of exposure and working together,” she said. “Getting involved and supporting Juneteenth celebrations create new bonds of friendship and understanding among us. This, indeed, brightens our future. This is the spirit of Juneteenth.”
While it marks several anniversaries, Juneteenth is also one of the best parties in town. Norman Norwood plans to barbecue briskets, sausage, a pair of wild hogs and a wild turkey. Brenda Norwood will be frying chicken most of the afternoon. Attendees are asked to bring side dishes or a dessert to share.
The city, with assistance from First United Methodist Church, will be doing video interviews.
“We will be doing some oral history with long-time Mansfield residents and getting their remembrances, and have that available for years to come,” said Belinda Willis, the city’s director of communications and marketing. “We are going to be doing that throughout the year to provide insight for people who live here years from now.”
The city will also have a booth to share information about Mansfield’s yearlong celebration of its 125th birthday, and all of the upcoming events planned.
Amanda Rogers, 817-473-4451
11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, June 20
McClendon Park West
799 W. Broad St.
Free; bring a dish to share