KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — Juneteenth marks a milestone in American history that occurred over a century and a half ago and was recently declared as a federal holiday by President Joe Biden.
Some, however, might not know what the holiday celebrates. Community members in the Tri-Cities are working to change that.
A handful of Kingsport residents teamed up to organize the Riverview community’s first Juneteenth parade on Friday evening in an effort to raise awareness about and celebrate Black history and freedom.
“Juneteenth is the oldest commemoration of slavery here in America,” Bishop Ronnie Collins, an organizer of Kingsport’s Juneteenth parade, said. “[June 19] became a day of jubilation; a day of emancipation.”
According to Collins, Juneteenth celebrations originated in Galveston, Texas, after Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger traveled to the state to share the news that Black slaves were free — this news made it in Texas two and a half years after former Pres. Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
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 personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhereMaj. Gen. Gordon Granger
“Out of all the rebellious states, the last state that did not comply to [the Emancipation of Proclamation] was Texas,” Collins said. “So, when Texas did it, that is what we’re symbolizing — that end of slavery — even though we all know that the end of slavery really didn’t happen until the 13th Amendment in December of 1865.”
Collins said that Juneteenth should be a day all Americans celebrate and acknowledge.
“I want everybody to understand that we want to celebrate the end of slavery,” he said. “It’s an independence day for us, but really for any American that becomes free. It is everybody’s independence day because we were the last group that came up with this.”
More events are planned for Saturday and Sunday. They are listed on the City of Kingsport’s website.