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Why Juneteenth event celebrates 153 years of freedom
Gainesville-Hall County Black Historical Society celebration set Saturday at Midtown Greenway
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A First Baptist of Gainesville youth group performs June 17, 2017, during the Juneteenth Celebration of Freedom Event in Gainesville. Juneteenth commemorates the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas on June 19, 1865, at the end of the Civil War. - photo by David Barnes

African-American culture will be shared Saturday in Gainesville, but organizers hope the event draws a multicultural crowd to enjoy music, food and arts.

For the sixth year, the Gainesville-Hall County Black Historical Society will hold its annual Juneteenth celebration beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 23, at the Midtown Greenway, 682 Grove St.

Juneteenth began more than 150 years ago and has grown in size and popularity in cities across the U.S. 

Juneteenth

When: 3 p.m. Saturday, June 23

Where: Midtown Greenway, 682 Grove St., near the Gainesville Public Safety Complex

Cost: Free

When President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation to abolish slavery on Jan. 1, 1863, it wasn’t until the conclusion of the Civil War more than two years later that the Proclamation took effect in Southern states, such as Texas, where some African-Americans were still enslaved.

It was on June 19, 1865, that Union troops in Texas delivered the news that Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee had surrendered two months earlier. As the news spread, celebrations erupted across the country, which became known as Juneteenth.

Linda Hutchens, Gainesville-Hall County Black Historical Society chairwoman and event organizer, encouraged everyone to come out to Saturday’s event.

“We want to invite the public out to our celebration and we welcome everyone to join us. This is really a multicultural affair,” Hutchens said.

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Camera Kidd, right, and her mother, Sherone Mattox, left, find shade under umbrellas to beat the heat June 17, 2017, during the Juneteenth Celebration of Freedom Event in Gainesville. Juneteenth commemorates the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas on June 19, 1865, at the end of the Civil War. - photo by David Barnes
The celebration will include many aspects of African-American culture, including music and choir singing from various church groups, a band, poetry readings, dancing, food, and arts and crafts vendors. Many local organizations and will also be there to hand out information.

“It’s a hodgepodge if you will,” Hutchens said with a laugh.

She also explained the importance of teaching younger generations about the holiday, and the celebrations that go along with it.

“People need to be informed so that they can celebrate, too,” she said. “You should appreciate your freedom and how far we’ve (African-Americans) come as a people.” 

GHCBHS member Stephanie Watkins also emphasized the importance of the history behind the holiday and teaching others about it so that they can celebrate.  

“Growing up, we got very little history in school,” Watkins said. “If we don’t look back on our history, we are sure to repeat it. By remembering though, we are supporting our legacy. Saturday’s event will be a great time of fellowship and fun.”

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