For former enslaved people and their ancestors, Juneteenth is Independence Day.
Also known as Freedom Day, Juneteenth is an American holiday that marks the June 19, 1865, announcement in Texas of the end of slavery in the U.S.
Several groups in our area will hold their annual Juneteenth celebrations to commemorate the holiday, and Telfair Museums will kick-off the festivities with their 12th annual observance of Juneteenth with a Free Family Day from 1 to 4 p.m. June 8 at the Jepson Center.
According to Harry Delorme, senior curator of education for Telfair Museums, the museum group hosts their event a little early each year so the community can experience the other celebrations that take place the following weekend.
“We start the day with an opening ceremony on the stairs of the Jepson,” he said. “Then we move inside for the other programs that take place throughout the museum.”
He added that the event is curated by local historian and poet Vaughnette Goode-Walker and includes music, storytelling, hands-on activities for children and art demonstrations of traditional Gullah-Geechee arts and more.
“This is a big event each year,” Delorme said. “We’ll have our longtime presenters like Jamal Toure and Queen Quet who bring new stories and presentations each year. And, something new this year will be a presentation by Hermina Glass-Hill.”
Glass-Hill is a historian and will read and present a new book on Susie King Taylor and the illustrations from the book will be presented on the big screen in the theater as she reads.
Delorme explained the Savannah United House of Prayer Shout Band will perform around 2:45 p.m. that afternoon, as well.
“They are really amazing; they are really a spiritual experience,” he said. “They are remarkably intense and uplifting. Their music is like nothing else.
“... This is really an important event for us to do as a museum,” Delorme added. “It’s a celebration of American history and also a celebration of culture and art as well.
Other local Juneteenth Celebration events include:
* June 7-8: Bluffton (South Carolina) Community Celebration of Emancipation and Freedom presented by Bluffton Martin Luther King Observance Committee along with the The Heyward House. Events 6-8 p.m. Friday at the Bluffton Oyster Factory Park include Gullah Shout Series with The Voices of El Shaddai featuring Mike Cohen along with conch stew and other food favorites. Admission is $2 for adults; children under 18 are free. Lawn chairs are encouraged for seating.
Events from 4-9 p.m. ,June 8 at The Heyward House, 70 Boundary St., Bluffton, include headliners The Geechee Experience and more live music from other artists including Angela Bonaparte, The Diamond Dancing Company, a drum circle, Gullah shout, a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, along with food and crafts for sale. Lawn chairs are encouraged for seating. Tickets are $5 and children 14 and under are free. Information at The Bluffton MLK Observance Committee on Facebook or call the Heyward House at 843-757-6293.
* June 15, 11 a.m.: The annual Juneteenth Festival at the 38th Street Park in Savannah organized by the Daughters of Mary Magdalene. This free, community festival features African libation, spirituals songs, African dancers, the Rainbow Gospel Singers, positive rap, J.D. Music, the African Griot, face painting and African American poetry. For more information, call Marilyn Jackson at 912-412-4851.
* June 15: Juneteenth Celebration presented by Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park, 539 William Hilton Pkwy., Hilton Head Island. From 11 a.m.-3 p.m., the event features interactive experiences significant to the era of Mitchelville in the Reconstruction Era, plus a live performance by Just A Few Cats including Alvin Garrett, Latrese Bush, Logan the Entertainer and "American Idol" winner Ruben Studdard, along with Marlena Smalls and the Hallelujah Singers. Tickets are $15 and children 12 and under are free. Information at Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park on Facebook.
* Juneteenth Wade-In at North Beach Grill in Tybee Island will take place on June 19 at 6 p.m. The event is billed as “a time of reflection and celebration” and the community is encouraged to attend. Children must be accompanied by an adult.