Juneteenth 2020 occurs during a time of great discussion on race in the United States. The holiday commemorates June 19, 1865, when the Union troops who arrived in Galveston, Texas, told slaves of the Emancipation Proclamation. On Saturday, June 20, several Spartanburg organizations will put on a program to highlight the holiday as well as other aspects of African American history.
In its fourth year, the Spartanburg Juneteenth-organized event will feature two historical talks, spoken-word poetry, a monologue and more. Other organizers of the celebration include Spartanburg’s NAACP chapter, Brothers Restoring Urban Hope and Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church.
These groups, organizer Victor Durrah says, “came together to put on a program to commemorate and to educate about Juneteenth.”
The title of this year’s celebration, “The Final Word: A Historical Response to Juneteenth and the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921,” came as a response to a rally organized by President Donald Trump that was originally supposed to have been held on Juneteenth in Tulsa, Oklahoma, explains Durrah.
Warren Carson, professor emeritus at the University of South Carolina Upstate, who taught English and African American studies, will provide the first talk and present the history of the holiday.
“It’s a holiday celebrated primarily in African American communities,” says Carson. “The date actually refers back to 1865, when the last remaining slaves in the United States finally received the word of freedom from the federal troops two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation had gone into effect.
“In recent years Juneteenth has been celebrated in many locations throughout the country,” he says.
Companies such as Nike, the NFL and Twitter will be recognizing the holiday this year.
For Carson, the significance is a focus on both celebration and discussion. “It’s one of those holidays where not a whole lot of people really understand the historical context of it, but it’s a way to bring people together in celebration of African American culture,” Carson explains.
“It’s always a good thing to learn while celebrating,” he adds.
USC Upstate history professor Carmen Harris will discuss the Tulsa race massacre that occurred on June 1, 1921. The massacre saw 35 city blocks burned, more than a thousand homes destroyed and around 300 people killed in an affluent, majority African American part of the city known as “Black Wall Street.”
Around the talks, Moody Black will perform and Georgia McClintock will give a historical monologue, Durrah says.
Durrah hopes that people will learn a bit more about African American history. “We hope that our audience, our community, overall, can appreciate the holiday,” he says.
“It’s important that we look at our history, so that we don’t repeat it,” Durrah explains. “It might be uncomfortable, but it is very important.”
The Juneteenth event will be from 10 a.m. to noon. Due to the pandemic, space at the event is limited. You can catch it via a livestream on the Facebook pages of Spartanburg Juneteenth, Spartanburg’s NAACP chapter, Brothers Restoring Urban Hope and Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church.
Saturday, June 20, 2020
Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Spartanburg