Soul Sessions Podcast: Pam Junior & Juneteenth 2023
Today on Soul Sessions, we'll revisit a conversation I had last summer with Two Mississippi Museums director Pamela D.C. Junior to learn more of about the significance of Juneteenth - plus get a glimpse of what's in store in Jackson for this year's holiday weekend.
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June 19th is a celebration of Black independence in this country. Juneteenth, declared a federal holiday in June, 2021. Hey, it's Paul Wolf with a front row seat to conversations on culture from Jackson, Mississippi. We call the podcast Soul Sessions. It's the people, places, and events that make the City With Soul shine. Today we'll revisit a conversation I had last summer with Two Mississippi Museums director Pamela D.C. Junior to learn more of about the significance of Juneteenth.
Pam, I think you might be able to give us a bit of a backstory on this newly declared federal holiday, Juneteenth?
Yeah, I can just a little bit. Juneteenth marks a day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the entire state and ensure that enslaved people, and I always say Africans, are to be freed. So June 19th, General Gordon Granger came into Galveston, Texas with I think approximately about 2,000 troops. There was 250,000 enslaved people there in Galveston, Texas who knew nothing about freedom. This had happened in 1863 when Lincoln freed the slaves. General Gordon Granger came into Galveston, Texas two and a half years later. That's something. And I always tell people there were no cell phones, there were no rotary dial phones, ways or television or news reports that enslaved people had been freed two years earlier. So these troops go into Galveston, Texas, and Gordon Granger reads general order number three that state that the people of Texas are informed that in accordance with the proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. That was a pivotal day.
Two years later, I thought about why two years later? Because freedom was in, when the Emancipation Proclamation was written, it said, "Enslaved people in Confederate states." Now, in 1863, in some places it was not implemented and they didn't do it. And so here we have Texas, this place where the Civil War was not on a large scale, and they were able to use these people as far as labor for two extra years. It got so bad that people from other states brought their enslaved people into Texas in order to keep them working. But Juneteenth of 1865 brought about a big change.
And so we think this was deliberate then that they knew it and didn't abide by the Emancipation Proclamation?
They were smart enough to say, "We are under Confederate rule, so we do what we want to do," and that's what they did. And it happened like that in other places. Even in Mississippi, the union troops crossed over from Alabama into Mississippi in May 8 of 1865 to tell the enslaved people in Columbus, Mississippi, that area, that, "You're free." So they have what they call 8th of May Day or Eight o' May Day. So this thing of holding on to people that were working for them, or not only working but enslaved and being treated as not being a citizen, this happened not only in Texas, but other places too. But in Texas, June 19, Juneteenth, those people who had worked and worked and worked and were treated as subhumans were freed, 250,000 of them.
Can you fathom that? Can you even conceive of being alive in that time and hearing that news on that day?
Paul, I can't even imagine because of how my ancestors were treated and the trauma that still goes and runs through my blood. That is what the trauma that they felt, I can't even imagine, but I know that it's there, it's instilled in me and has not washed away.
And now we recognize Black excellence in this country and look back on that milestone and celebrate. So Pam, what is the significance for all of us in recognizing Juneteenth?
It's so much that goes on in this Americas today in 2022, and there's so much work that has to be done. I hope that we can look at this day as a day that we come together, that we come together as one, that we come together as a people from all over the Americas where we can not be a divided people, that we can come together as one, as a union, to make this place called America even stronger. And to use this time to understand the cultures, to understand each other and to understand who I am and you are, so that we can get an understanding how much better this place will be.
That's Pamela D.C. Junior, the director of the Two Mississippi Museums here in Jackson and our 2022 conversation, a history lesson and her thoughts on the significance of Juneteenth. Now, as this year's holiday approaches, I've asked my colleague, Yolanda Clay-Moore, to step in and share with us of the remembrances and celebrations that are happening around the city. So Yolanda, I think there's enough here to occupy the whole weekend and then some?
That's right, Paul. There's something here for everyone. We'll start with the Mississippi Juneteenth Homecoming Celebration at New Horizon Community Center. Now, it's an extended weekend celebration with multiple events. I'm only going to highlight some of the events, so you'll need to check out our website for the complete listing. It kicks off Thursday, June 15 with the collegiate career fair at the Jackson Convention Complex. Friday, a golf tournament, block party, and fireworks. Saturday, an all-white party at the Capital Club, and Sunday, which is Father's Day, there'll be a gospel concert featuring Pastor Mike Junior, James Fortune, and Zacardi Cortez. That will be at New Horizon.
On Saturday, June 17 at 11:00 AM the second annual Juneteenth Festival will return to Smith Park. There'll be food, retail and service vendors, live entertainment, and fun activities for the family. Later on that day you can head on to Farish Street at 5:00 PM as the Legacy Builders, Mississippi Black Pages and Ourglass Media present the seventh annual Juneteenth on Farish Festival. This is the oldest and longest celebration in the city that I know of. They'll have vendors, food and family activities plus music. It's a stellar lineup including Stephanie Luckett, Mike Rob and The 601 Band, Yung Jewelz, Prep Cashmere, Scottie Pimpen, and KoolKid Ridge, and it's on the historic Farish Street. What else can you ask for?
On to Monday, June 19, the Juneteenth Celebration Jubilee kicks off at the Two Mississippi Museums, sponsored by Ingalls Shipbuilding. This is a free family friendly event with theme tours, craft making activities for kids, music, onsite food trucks and live performances, and an evening celebration geared towards illustrating the history and significance of Juneteenth. By the way, admission on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday is free.
Finally, on Tuesday, June 20, the Juneteenth Jubilee Observance comes to Smith Robertson Museum with Dr. Daphne Chamberlain, an associate professor of history at Tougaloo College and Dr. Judith Reifsteck, author of Memoried & Storied, in a Juneteenth Jubilee Observance of victories and challenges of the Freedom struggle. When I hear the word jubilee, I can't help but think of our own Jackson icon, Dr. Margaret Walker Alexander, who wrote the book Jubilee. As always, you can find the latest on these and other City With Soul events at our website, visitjackson.com.
Thanks again to my colleague Yolanda Clay-Moore for a 2023 Juneteenth rundown of events here in Jackson. Soul Sessions is produced by Visit Jackson, the destination organization for Mississippi's capital city. Our executive producers are Jonathan Pettus and Dr. Ricky Thigpen. You want to know more about what's going on in the city about the work that we do? You can visit our website. It's always up to date at visitjackson.com. I'm Paul Wolf, and you've been listening to Soul Sessions.