Community invited to celebrate Juneteenth during virtual Edmonds College event Friday

Dr. Yvonne Terrell-Powell (Photo courtesy Edmonds College)

Community members are invited to attend the first Juneteenth celebration at Edmonds College on June 19, to mark the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery in the United States.

The event will be hosted by the college’s Equity & Inclusion, Student Services, and Finance Department and held remotely via Zoom from 2-3 p.m. To attend the meeting, follow the link here

The event aims to honor and celebrate Black identity, history, pride, achievements, and share ways the community is speaking up and taking action to address systemic racism and anti-Blackness. To learn more on the history of Juneteenth and its modern day celebrations, see the Edmonds College library resource guide.

Prior to the event, Equity and Inclusion Vice President Dr. Yvonne L. Terrell-Powell summarized the history of Juneteenth, which has become a holiday recognized in 45 states, including Washington:

On June 19, 1865, over two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, ending slavery. Major General Gordon Granger and several thousand Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas where there were over 250,000 Black people still being enslaved. He announced that the Civil War had ended and in accordance with a federal order all slaves were free.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr wrote, in a piece titled What is Juneteenth, “The way it was explained to me, ” one heir to the tradition is quoted in Hayes Turner’s essay, “the 19th of June wasn’t the exact day the Negro was freed. But that’s the day they told them that they was free…And my daddy told me that they whooped and hollered and bored holes in trees with augers and stopped it up with [gun] powder and light and that would be their blast for the celebration.”

While there was celebration and Black people were declaring their freedom, the Union Army, white slave owners, and white vigilantes denied former Black slaves their freedom by threatening, lynching, beating and murdering Black freed people. Henry Louis Gates, Jr also wrote “Those who acted on the news did so at their peril.”

As quoted in historian Leon Litwack’s book, Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery, former slave Susan Merritt recalled, ”You could see lots of [Black people] hangin’ to trees in Sabine bottom right after freedom, ’cause they cotch ’em swimmin’ ‘cross Sabine River and shoot ’em.’” In one extreme case, according to Elizabeth Hayes Turner, [in her comprehensive essay, “Juneteenth: Emancipation and Memory,” in Lone Star Pasts: Memory and History in Texas], a former slave named Katie Darling continued working for her mistress another six years.

“She whip me after the war jist like she did ‘fore,” Darling said.

While they experienced horrendous acts of violence and racism, these atrocities did not stop Black people from ushering in their freedom. They stood up, fought back and built thriving communities. The Black community continues to be strong and resilient as shown through their commitment to live, speak out, challenge injustices, excel, and remain vigilant in the fight for true freedom and justice.

This Juneteenth, we will come together to honor and celebrate black identity, history, pride, achievements, and share ways we are speaking up and taking action to address systemic racism and anti-Blackness.

  1. It is surprising that we have not made this a federal holiday already. Don’t know if it would actually heal anything but its certianly a significant enough day to merit nationalizing.

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