Do Savannnah

Savannah’s Jepson Center celebrates freedom at annual Juneteenth events

  • Performers on stage at a past Juneteenth at the Jepson Center. (Photo courtesy Telfair Museums)
  • Griot Kwabena Jones get help on the drums at a past Juneteenth celebration at Telfair Museums. (Savannah Morning News file photo)
  • Jamal Toure offers a living history presentation at a past Juneteenth celebration at Telfair Museums. (Savannah Morning News file photo)
  • Gregory Grant weaves a Gullah-Geechee sweetgrass basket during a past Juneteenth celebration at Telfair Museums. (Savannah Morning News file photo)
  • Visitors look at handmade sweetgrass baskets during a past Juneteenth celebration at Telfair Museums. (Savannah Morning News file photo)
 

Savannah’s Jepson Center celebrates freedom at annual Juneteenth events

31 May 2017

Editor's note: Due to travel issues, the June 8 lecture by Miguel A. Lorne has been postponed.

Juneteenth is the celebration of the emancipation of enslaved African Americans across the Confederate South. Also called Freedom Day or Juneteenth Independence Day, it commemorates the abolition of slavery in Texas, announced on June 19, 1865, and is celebrated more broadly as Emancipation Day for all freed people who were formerly enslaved.

Observances in each state differ in scope and duration, but most celebrations are centered around the date of June 19. Over the years, Telfair Museums has hosted various Juneteenth events and this year, like others, the celebration is scheduled earlier so as not to directly compete with other Juneteenth observances by other local organizations.

“It was really important to Telfair to establish an event that spoke to African American history that wasn’t just a Black History Month event and it’s something that’s connected to Savannah,” says Telfair’s senior curator of education Harry DeLorme.

This year’s events include a lecture by visiting scholar Miguel A. Lorne at 6 p.m. June 8 at the Jepson Center, “The Journey of Rev. George Liele: From Savannah Baptist to Rastafari,” as well as a Free Family Day on June 10 at the Jepson Center that will include storytelling, dance, hands-on art activities and other cultural presentations. Both events are free and open to the public.

“The celebration of freedom is what it’s all about,” says Vaughnette Goode-Walker, who has curated Telfair’s Juneteenth events since its inception there. “Juneteenth is important because it celebrates the freedom of those enslaved Africans in Texas who got word on June 19, 1865, that they were free. Its meaning extends throughout the country because the end of the Civil War meant freedom for all the enslaved.

“‘Juneteenth at the Jepson’ is a celebration of freedom here in the city that Gen. Sherman ended his March to the Sea and signed Field Order No. 15, promising land to the newly freed people. The Gullah-Geechee culture, still evident in this region, is the theme, which means it is also a celebration of the African culture that is rooted here as it is throughout the Diaspora.”

Work is also being done at a higher level to make the holiday a national observance.

“In terms of it being more uniformly observed, the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation has for several years been pushing for legislation with a National Day of Observance Campaign,” Goode-Walker says. “On the foundation’s website, it states that ‘2017 will be the year that Congress will finally pass legislation to make Juneteenth Independence Day a National Day of Observance in America.’”

Goode-Walker also points out that Lorne, the speaker on June 8, is an attorney and a Marcus Garvey scholar from Kingston, Jamaica. Lorne will relate the story of the Rev. George Liele, who baptized the Rev. Andrew Bryan, founder of First African Baptist Church. Bryan went on to travel to Jamaica, where his teachings helped form the basis for the Rastafari religious movement. Lorne is also the first international speaker at Telfair’s Juneteenth programming.

IF YOU GO

What: Telfair Museums’ Juneteenth Celebration

When: 1-4 p.m. June 10, Free Family Day

Where: Jepson Center, 207 W. York St.

Cost: Free

Info: telfair.org

Sections: 
Top