In the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued perhaps the most famous and celebrated executive order of all time, declaring freedom for all slaves in Confederate states.
The Emancipation Proclamation was issued on Jan. 1, 1863. But good news travels slowly through begrudging channels, especially for the 250,000 slaves in Texas, who didn’t learn of their freedom until June 19, 1865.
Freed slaves founded an annual celebration of that day, which came to be known as Juneteenth. Its 150th anniversary is next Friday.
The Arlington Public Library, though, is going early with its celebration. The Southeast Branch Library, 900 S.E. Green Oaks Blvd., has put together a two-hour program starting at 4 p.m. Saturday. It will feature a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, film clips on the history of Juneteenth, a jazz combo and a dance performance. It also includes activities for children.
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Also, the winners of the MLK Spirit of Service Award and the Animal Services Heritage Team Contest will be announced.
Featured speaker Geoffrey Mitchell, professor of American history at the University of Texas at Arlington, will kick off the program.
“We did it a week early because we were thinking there were going to be a lot of events that date,” said Yoko Matsumoto, administrator of library programming. “It should be fun.”
The city of Fort Worth and the Juneteenth Fort Worth Committee are collaborating on a 90-minute ceremony at City Hall at noon Friday, June 19. It will feature the Rev. Marlon Jones, founder and CEO of Voice of Influence, a youth leadership nonprofit, as keynote speaker.
Opal Lee, a longtime volunteer for the Juneteenth celebration in Fort Worth, will be honored as well.
“The 150th anniversary is a great milestone,” said Kenneth Alexander, a senior IT business analyst for the city and longtime volunteer organizer of the City Hall Juneteenth ceremony. This is the city’s 30th consecutive year to host a ceremony.
“I grew up in the Como area of the city, and I’ve seen the city grow, and I’ve see the battles we’ve had over civil rights,” he said. “I think Fort Worth has come a long way.”
The Juneteenth Committee has organized of full day of activities June 20, in and around Cobb Park, 2700 Cobb Park Drive. A parade kicks off at 9 a.m. at the intersection of Rosedale Street and Evans Avenue and finishes at the park.
A festival at the park is projected to run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. It features hip-hop and R&B concerts, a 5K and one-mile walk/run starts at 8 a.m.
The two-day celebration has adopted the theme, “None of us are free until we’re all free.”
More details are at the committee’s website, www.JuneteenthFTW.com.
“A hundred and fifty — that’s a lot of years to celebrate freedom,” said Andrea Dean, a senior customer service representative for the city and an organizer of the City Hall ceremony. “A lot of people don’t understand the meaning to Juneteenth. It’s freedom.”
Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7186