Juneteenth: A Community Empowerment Event in Rocky Mount, NC

JuneteenthRockyMountFor two years, news had not reached Texas.

In fact, it was not until Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston in 1865 (the end of the Civil War) that news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached the state’s shores--- two years after Lincoln had signed the executive order.

For two years, news had not reached Texas.

UPDATED: 2018 Juneteenth Celebration Information: June 1 & 2

Why was the Emancipation Proclamation Delayed?

There are several stories that attempt to explain the delay. Some historians hypothesize that there were very few Union troops in Texas to enforce Lincoln’s executive order. There are some stories about a messenger who was murdered en route to deliver the news, and still others that the information about precious freedom was deliberately withheld by landowners.

How 'Juneteenth' Got It's Name

Whatever the reason for the delay, on June 19, 1865, the slaves received word that they were free, and the resulting celebration---termed “Juneteenth” --- is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery. It has been an African-American tradition since the late 19th century.

Recently, Rocky Mount kept that tradition alive through the Juneteenth Community Empowerment celebration, sponsored by the city along with PNC, the Juneteenth Planning Committee and the Community Empowerment Association. The celebration was held on June 6. This year, the celebration took place around a cornerstone of local African-American history: the restored Douglas Block.

Juneteenth Held at Restored Douglas Block

The renovation of the Douglas Block benefited from a historic tax credit. From the early 1900s to the 1970s, the Douglas Block was the social and entrepreneurial business hub for African-Americans of Rocky Mount and the surrounding areas. This area included law and medical offices, theaters, restaurants and grocery stores.

Now, the buildings are home to residential apartments, businesses, and restaurants. The Douglas Block also includes the historic Booker T. Theater, which has been restored and transformed into a multipurpose facility. A jazz concert was held outside of the Booker T. Theater as part of the Juneteenth celebration.

 

Juneteenth Celebration  Performers

Performers included: Doors Wide Open and Julia Nixon, along with the Tom Browne Band. Dru Hill, a singing group from the 90’s, was the headline performer for the event. The celebration also included a dash of inspirational music by the Salvation and Deliverance Church Choir, the national winners of How Sweet the Sound competition (similar to American Idol for choirs.)

For more information and photo highlights from the Juneteenth celebration, view this photographic slideshow from the Rocky Mount Telegram.
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