BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – While President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation declaring all slaves their freedom became effective in 1863, some continued to be enslaved for two more years after.
It wasn’t until June 19, 1865, when 2,000 Union troops would march into highly-run Confederate territory officially declaring the slaves there as free that it would finally come to an end. This day subsequently became known as Juneteenth — the day all slaves officially gained their freedom.
Last year, President Biden signed the day into law as a federal holiday. Governor Jim Justice followed that by declaring it a state holiday in West Virginia this year.
The City of Beckley also commemorates an annual Juneteenth celebration again for 18 years, a tradition they are glad to continue.
“Wow…it’s substantial progress,” says the coordinator of the Juneteenth celebration, Tina Pannell. “Friday as state employees we were able to celebrate Juneteenth, so letting the nation know that Juneteenth is on the map and it isn’t going anywhere is a big, big win.”
The festivities kicked off in Beckley on Saturday, June 18, 2022, with the annual Juneteenth Celebration and Barbecue.
The day began at Hunter Cemetery where the special Juneteenth service was held. The celebration then moved to New River Park for a prayer led by Pastor Tyler Coleman and the proclamation read by Beckley Mayor, Rob Rappold.
The event followed with expressions of the importance of the holiday through art, song, history lessons, and spoken word.
“Whereas Juneteenth serves as a historical milestone reminding Americans of the triumph of the human spirit over the cruelty of slavery,” reads Mayor Rappold as part of the proclamation.
Covid-19 vaccines and boosters provided by the Raleigh County NAACP were also given out during the event.