Sunday, July 6, 2014

Celebrating Juneteenth!

By Nina Kendall

            Juneteenth is a unique holiday.  It is the annual commemoration of the day those enslaved in Texas learned they were free. This news arrived on June 19, 1865.  These new Americans learned of their freedom more than 2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation and more than 2 months after the conclusion of the Civil War.  Juneteenth is the oldest celebration of the ending of slavery in America. In the midst of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, Juneteenth commemorations help to share more of this period of history.
USCT Reenactor
This year we commemorated Juneteenth at the Atlanta Cyclorama & Civil War Museum in Grant Park.  The Atlanta Cyclorama is the home of a large cylindrical panoramic painting depicting the Battle of Atlanta and a collection of Civil War artifacts.  The Cyclorama hosted a celebration in honor of Juneteenth and waived admission to their exhibits. It was an afternoon jam-packed with opportunities to enjoy history.
One of the highlights on any trip to the Atlanta Cyclorama is the viewing of the painting. The largest cylindrical panoramic painting in North America is viewed in special show.  You sit in rotating seating and listen to a narration of the battle as it is depicted in the painting. It is quite a site. Upon exiting the exhibit, you can view artifacts about the Civil War in Georgia and the restoration of painting.

USCT Reenactors
In addition to viewing the painting and artifacts this year there were a number of other activities to enjoy. You could learn about the life of union soldiers and the service of United States Colored Troops (USCT) from the re-enactors. A traveling miniatures exhibit provided by  The Sable Arm In Acts Of Valor also shared more information about African American service in the military.  Young and old were fascinated by display. Crafts were available for young kids. All visitors could enjoy the Order of Freedom presented by Atlanta History Center performers. Further if you were looking for a more personal connection, you could attend one of several genealogy workshops hosted by the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society, Metro Atlanta Chapter.
The Sable Arms in Act of Valor Exhibit
This was a great event. Lots of people, young and old, were enjoying history. This was my first Juneteenth Celebration. It will not be my last.  Check out what is going on your local community with the current commemorations of Freedom Summer, the Civil War, and World War I a number of unique programs are being hosted. Mark your calendars for the 150th celebration of Juneteenth next year and continue to celebrate the past.

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