By MARY RAINWATER
The Negro Historical Preservation Society — Palestine Branch will celebrate the conclusion of slavery in the United States during the 20th annual Juneteenth Celebration taking place Thursday through Saturday in Palestine.
Activities begin with the annual Juneteenth Pageant at 6 p.m. Thursday at Ben E. Keith Community Room; and continues with a fish fry and fellowship from 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday at Calhoun Park.
Events culminate on Saturday with a parade and brief program at the Anderson County Courthouse, beginning at 11 a.m.
“(They will) speak on the Emancipation Proclamation, the Swanson/Bridge Slave Cemetery and Buffalo Soldiers,” event spokesperson James Smith said.
After a presentation on the African American Heritage Trail brochure, the parade route and the Freedmen’s March, a reenactment of the famous 1868 march in Anderson County will take place.
“In the Freedmen’s reenactment, two Union soldiers will march the voters to the polls,” Smith said.
Following the program, the parade route begins at the courthouse, and will continue to Church Street, then to Murchison Street and conclude at Calhoun Park.
“We will have a lot of activities taking place at the park,” event organizer James Clayton said. “There will be games and all kinds of activities. There will be food there as well.”
Those planning to attend activities at Calhoun Park are asked to bring their own lawn chairs.
“We have been celebrating Juneteenth since our first event in 1993,” Clayton said. “We always have a good response from the community and hope to this year too.
“This event is for everyone in Anderson County, not just Palestine,” he added. “We want this to be a countywide homecoming.”
Any church group, soloist, quartet or praise team, etc. interested in performing may contact one of the organizers: Clayton at 903-731-4153 or Smith at 903-729-6741.
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.
Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19 that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.
It is important to note that this was 2 1/2 years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which had become official Jan. 1, 1863.
About the Freedman’s March
The Freedmen’s March that took place at the Anderson County Courthouse in February 1868 was the result of the 1866 Constitution being rejected because the constitution didn’t recognize Freedmen’s Rights.
It adopted laws that prohibited the ex-slaves from exercising their rights under the U.S. Constitution, thus it curtailed their free expression guaranteed under that Constitution as citizens of the United States.
It created separate education programs and the first Jim Crow Laws were instituted in Texas.
When the government rejected the laws of the 1866 Constitution, it required a constitutional convention to be held and that Freedmen be allowed to vote on the constitution for the first time.
More than 36,000 Freedmen marched to courthouses all over the state of Texas, including Anderson County. These Freedmen were protected by federal troops. Texas and 11 other Southern states were placed under martial law for protection of all citizens.
Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org