Juneteenth Celebration to be Held June 15 at Fairgrounds

By Rebecca Maynard

The community is invited to celebrate and learn at the annual Juneteenth celebration at the Ruritan Fairgrounds on Saturday, June 15. The gates open at 11am and the program begins at 12:30pm. Allison Seymour, D.C. Channel 9 news personality, and Mark Clark, Baltimore radio personality, will MC the program. 

“This is their third year with our local program as they now feel as though they are locals,” said Dorothy Davis, Josephine Community Museum board member.

Juneteenth (short for “June Nineteenth”) marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed. The troops’ arrival came a full two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth honors the end to slavery in the United States and is considered the longest-running African American holiday. On June 17, 2021, it officially became a federal holiday. 

The nonprofit Josephine School Community Museum, Josephine Improvement Association (JIA) and Clarke County Training School & Johnson-Williams High School Reunion Association organized the event, which will feature a variety of vendors and food trucks. The popular MLA mime group out of D.C. returns, as does Susan Shields. Souled Out will close out the day with a live performance.

“The flag memorial is a major display which memorializes the enslaved individuals who labored in Clarke County,” Davis said. “Many of the historic structures, churches, mansions, etc. were built by those who were slaves here.”

“The Lest We Forget Slavery Museum’s Traveling Slavery Exhibit from Pennsylvania  is a new feature this year and should not be missed,” Davis said. 

The exhibit, according to its website, provides a unique historical perspective into the reality of slavery for Africans brought to America. It is the only museum of its kind in Philadelphia that exhibits authentic slavery artifacts which include hundreds of shackles, chains, coffles, branding irons and other forms of punishing ironware.

Authentic documents show how enslaved Africans were bought and sold as chattel. Numerous “Jim Crow” objects which negatively depicted and ridiculed African Americans, creating a lasting racist attitude, are also on display. Incredible African works of art – sculpture, oil paintings and vintage photographs are on display and descriptive contextual panels are posted throughout to assist visitors in understanding the significance of this period in American history.“To many African Americans, this is our Independence Day,” Davis said. “While it is a day of joy, it is also a reminder of our nation’s history, how far we have come and how far we have yet to go.” She added: “Let’s celebrate our freedom with the unique traditions of such a rich, vibrant culture.”