The Eastern Shore Juneteenth Parade & Festival this Saturday promises an afternoon of entertainment, foods, vendors and children's activities – but most importantly, the observation of a day paramount in American history.
“Juneteenth is important for all Americans because it represents the emancipation of slaves,” Amanda Hopkins, President of the Wicomico County NAACP, told the Salisbury Independent.
“Although it is simply a date on the calendar to many, including African-Americans, it should serve as a reminder from whence we came. However, it should also remind us how much further we need to go. Often it feels as if things haven’t gotten better in the sense that there continues to be a false narrative that equity, diversity and inclusion exist.
“All races and cultures should use this day to promote awareness about the history of this day and take steps to ensure that all rights, especially voting, remain in place for everyone. Freedom comes at a cost, which Juneteenth is our reminder,” Hopkins said.
Planned for 1 p.m. in Downtown Salisbury, the city’s first Juneteenth parade will bring together school marching bands and other musical groups, dancers and classic cars, with trophies awarded.
In partnership with the city of Salisbury, the parade will be followed by a community block party-style festival beginning around 2 p.m. on North Division and Main streets. It’s expected to continue until around 6 p.m.
Salisbury Mayor Jake Day said he’s “so proud to see our city come together to acknowledge the end of the great stain of slavery on our nation’s history.”
“I believe this will be an opportunity for healing, gathering, celebrating our diversity and setting our eyes on a better future,” Day said.
The event is being organized by Eastern Shore Juneteenth, a not-for-profit organization on the Lower Shore with the mission of bringing the community together to celebrate black culture and achievement, provide community education on black history and the ongoing struggle for civil rights and create a safe space for black creativity and expression, according to its Website.
There is no admission charge for the parade or festival and parking will also be free in the parking garage on Market Street, in the Wicomico County Library lot and on neighboring streets. Streets and on-street parking will close along Camden, West Market, West Main, East Main and Division streets for set up.
Juneteenth -- on Sunday, June 19, but observed this year as a federal holiday on Monday, June 20 -- is an observance of the day freedom finally came to slaves, in 1865. On that day, 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, and the Army announced that the more than 250,000 enslaved black people in that state were now free. The day came to be known as Juneteenth, by those who were newly freed.
President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, issued on Jan. 1, 1863, also freed those in all the other southern secessionist states of the confederacy except for parts of states that were not in rebellion.
The Emancipation Proclamation declared an end to slavery in the confederate states but not in states that remained in the Union, so for awhile, slavery remained legal in states including Delaware and Kentucky. Those enslaved in those states were freed when the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified, finally abolishing slavery in every state in the nation. That was on Dec. 6, 1865.
Celebrations of Juneteenth – also called Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, Freedom Day or Black Independence Day -- were revived during the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and ’60s. In 2021 Juneteenth was established as a federal holiday.
Historically, celebrations have included parades, as well as rodeos, street fairs, historical reenactments, Miss Juneteenth contests, singing traditional songs including “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and reading the Emancipation Proclamation and works of African-American writers including Maya Angelou.