By Erika Webb
The signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, did not amount to liberty for all, at least not right away. The complete end of slavery in the United States came two years later -- on June 19, 1865 -- and to this day that day is celebrated worldwide.
In June, The African American Museum of the Arts, Stetson University and Mainstreet Art & Culture DeLand (MAC DeLand) will offer three days of events in joyful observation of Juneteenth, the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in this country.
There also are events in East Volusia with a June 19 banquet at the Midtown Cultural and Education Center on George Engram Boulevard and a festival with family activities, food, vendors and entertainment at Cypress Street Park on June 20, both in Daytona Beach.
There will be a community event June 14 from 11a.m.-6 p.m. at the African American Museum of the Arts amphitheater at 222 S. Clara Ave., DeLand.
"There will be many activities for families and communities," said the museum's executive director, Mary Allen. "The event recognizes all cultures."
Performing will be Roscoe Jenkins rhythm and blues band, the Bennett Boyz singing gospel, Andre D'Arby, the Hispanic American Youth Group of Deltona (HAYGD), Mia Nathan and more.
A local jazz group will perform at 1 p.m.
"There will be music all day long," Ms. Allen said.
There also will be interpretive dance and poetry sessions as well as a silent auction.
Dressed in Civil War-era Army attire, Joe Vetter will perform a reenactment.
Food, food and more food will include barbequed chicken and ribs, Italian sausages, Caribbean favorites and more.
After 15 years of hosting Juneteenth, the museum has festival making down pat and Ms. Allen said this year's will be the largest one yet.
Museum staff anticipate anywhere from 200 to 500 or more attendees.
"We'll have a large assortment of vendors who will be selling African artifacts, attire and jewelry, shea butter, pocketbooks ... all kinds of things," she said.
A children's area will feature a bounce house, face painting and storytelling.
The idea is to embrace and educate all.
"Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom ... to teach the history of why we celebrate," Ms. Allen said. "It's gonna be a full day."
On June 19, 1865, nearly two years and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Union soldiers led by Major Gen. Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas, with news the war had ended and the enslaved were free, according to juneteenth.com.
This certainly was news to Texans who had realized little impact from the history-changing document due to minimal Union troops to enforce the Executive Order.
"With General Lee's surrender in April of 1865 and the arrival of General Granger's regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance," the website stated.
Attempts to explain the delayed delivery of life-altering news include several scenarios passed down through the generations.
In one version, a messenger on his way to Galveston was murdered. Another proffers the news was deliberately withheld by enslavers who wanted to maintain plantation labor forces; and a third states that federal troops waited, allowing slave owners to reap one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation, according to juneteenth.com.
Upon his arrival in Texas, one of Gen. Granger's first orders of business was to read General Order Number 3 to the people there.
It began "most significantly":
"The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a proclamation from the executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer."
Complete shock, immediate jubilation, leave-taking and lingering to explore a new kind of employer-employee relationship comprised the reaction gamut of the newly free.
June 19th was coined Juneteenth and grew with descendants' participation, the website noted.
A time for reassuring each other, praying and gathering remaining family members, the day continued to be highly revered in Texas for decades, prompting pilgrimages to Galveston by former slaves and their descendants.
Today, Juneteenth is celebrated in 150 cities across the U.S., Ms. Allen said.
Traditionally, the day's events focus on self-improvement, the website notes.
"Juneteenth celebrations recognize the turmoil and hardship (slaves) went through," Ms. Allen said. "It's an historical milestone, the triumph of the human spirit."
There also will be special art exhibits throughout June at Gateway Center for the Arts in DeBary, city halls and select restaurants.
For more information, contact Giuli Schacht at (407) 744-4035 or Robin French at (386) 490-4527.