Columbia aims to educate community with annual historic event
COLUMBIA- This weekend the city of Columbia supported the celebration of an historic holiday in the black community and hosted an annual event. Friday, June 19th marked what many embrace as a holiday for Blacks across the nation, Juneteenth.
Columbia Parks and Recreation held its annual Juneteenth event in Douglass Park. Several Community members came out to view the displays and to listen to live music, both contemporary and gospel and view the table displays of black history including the roots of black entrepreneurship and heritage in Columbia.
"The history of the African American community," said Bill Thompson recreation specialist, "may be unknown to many, old people an young. Juneteenth is what I feel is a time we need to understand what our history is about... and there is a lot of Black history that is unique to Columbia."
More than 150 years after the civil war, Juneteenth in a nutshell represents the eradication of slavery. The emancipation proclamation was signed into law in on Jan. 1, 1863 but was not recognized in the western states until two years later in 1865. Juneteenth came about when Texas, the western most of the Confederate states, finally received news that salves were free. Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Gavelston Bay, Texas with 2,ooo union troops to publicly read the order.
About 250,000 slaves in Texas then proceeded to celebrate, with song, dance, and feasts thus marking the annual celebration of Juneteenth. Although the holiday was never given official respect or recognition in the reconstruction and Jim Crow eras, more than 39 states and the district of Columbia recognize Juneteenth.
Renne Powell, a white woman, Missouri native and Columbia resident who works for the city's disabilities commission attended the city's events. She said "With the recent events its important that people become aware of this history. I wasn't taught this in school... and there's a reason for that. So much of this is systematic and white people are too comfortable with not being inconvenienced to learn history that doesn't match what they've been told growing up."
In Missouri, slaves were not given freedom even after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, until Jan. 11, 1865. As the Fourth of July approaches many will celebrate freedom and liberty but granted by the Declaration of Independence. A famous quote from author abolitionist and escaped slave Frederick Douglass in an Independence day oration said, "What to the American slave, is your Fourth of July. " He then answered and said "A day that reveals to him more than all other days, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is a constant victim."
Jefferson City also hosts a large Juneteenth celebration every year, and a local entrepreneur in Columbia also rents Indian Hills Parks to host Juneteenth festivities.