BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – An important announcement was made on June 19, 1865 officially proclaiming all slaves their freedom.
Now a national and federal holiday, Juneteenth has always been a day of celebration for this groundbreaking time in history, one such celebration happening right in downtown Beckley.
“It’s come full circle,” says Tina Pannell, president of the Juneteenth committee in Beckley. “They’ve been celebrating Juneteenth in Beckley for 17 years, so this is our 17th annual Juneteenth festival. And I’m just really excited to say that it’s our duty to dialogue about this opportunity and educate all people.”
The celebratory day kicked off with a commemoration ceremony at Wright-Hunter Cemetery, where songs were sung, President Biden’s special West Virginia Juneteenth address was read, and flags were placed on all the gravesites to honor those who had fought and won this freedom generations before.
“The emancipation proclamation by Lincoln was given, but he actually released the slaves two years prior to that, however, they didn’t walk off plantations until 1865, so it’s just a celebration of that, which we will be celebrating throughout the 4th of July for this memorable occasion.”
The special day then moved on to the Youth Museum for “Juneteenth in the Park,” where education of this historic day would be presented along with the fun and festivities.
“We will have a historian coming out who will be talking about looking back to move forward, and then we will also have a lady coming out to talk about the Crown Ordinance Act, and we will have singers and dancers, it’s a jubilee at the end of the day,” Pannell says.
Celebrations have been taking place on June 19 since around 1866, but this important occasion had finally gotten the recognition it truly deserves just a couple of days ago when President Joe Biden officially signed Juneteenth into law as a National and Federal holiday.