Soul Sessions Podcast: Pamela DC Junior
On today’s show, we visit with the Director of the Two Mississippi Museums, Pamela DC Junior.
Pam sat down with us to celebrate the history and significance of Juneteenth – Jubilee Day – and why it is important for all people to recognize the holiday, plus, we’ll take a look at Juneteenth activities in Jackson.
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Paul: This is Soul Sessions, conversations on culture from Jackson, Mississippi. I'm your host, Paul Wolf, bringing you a look at the people, the places and the events that make us the City With Soul. On today's show, the director of the Two Mississippi Museums, Pamela DC Junior. Pam sat down with us to celebrate the history and significance of Juneteenth, Jubilee Day, and why it's important for all people to recognize the holiday. Plus, we'll take a look at Juneteenth activities in Jackson.
Paul: Hi Pam. Thanks so much for being here today.
Pam: Thank you for having me. I'm really excited. I'm excited to be here with Visit Jackson.
Paul: Always. You are one of our board members and we love you dearly. You're also the director of the Two Mississippi Museums, one of our favorite places here in Jackson. I've got you here today because I know you are a historian and I know that you can talk to us about the significance of the Juneteenth holiday, made to a federal holiday, officially observed this past year. Lots of stuff going on in Jackson and I'm going to talk about that a little later on, but just in case folks don't understand the significance of Juneteenth and what that day means, can you help us out with the origins and the history of that?
Pam: 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 Texan with probably, I think approximately about 2,000 troops. There were 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. 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 stated 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.
Pam: Two years later - I thought about why two years later - because 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.
Paul: And so we think they knew in Texas, they just played ignorant of the situation?
Pam: 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. It happened like that in other places. Even in Mississippi, the Union troops came, crossed over from Alabama into Mississippi in May, May 8th 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-A-May Day. So this thing of holding on to people that were working for them, 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 19th – Juneteenth - those people who had worked and worked and worked and were treated as subhumans were freed, 250,000 of them.
Paul: What a day. I mean, can you imagine being in that situation on that day, in that place and hearing the news that you no longer had to suffer enslavement?
Pam: Paul, I can't even imagine, because of how my ancestors were treated and the trauma that still goes and runs through my blood veins. 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.
Paul: And now we can celebrate. We can look back on that milestone and we can celebrate the accomplishments of excellence in the Black and African American community. What is the significance for that community and for us all, as people, to observe that day and to recognize that day?
Pam: It's so much that goes on in this America 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 cannot 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.
Paul: Here's what's happening for Juneteenth weekend in Jackson. See Juneteenth fireworks on Friday, June 17th at the Jackson Convention Complex, the show starts at nine. The Juneteenth Expo featuring Bobby Rush and the Mississippi Mass Choir begins Friday, June 17th through Sunday, June 19th at New Horizon Event Center. Juneteenth on Farish is Saturday, June 18th in the Farish Street Historic District presented by Legacy Builders, Hour Glass Media and Jackson Black Pages. Mississippi Votes Juneteenth celebration is Sunday, June 19th, from two to eight on Farish Street. Juneteenth Festival at Smith Park on Sunday, June 19th is a family friendly event hosted by Robin Knox, CEO of Queen by Roe, and Juneteenth R and B Jam comes to the Mississippi Coliseum Sunday, June 19th, featuring Ne-yo with Monica and Cupid and August Alsina. And when you visit the Two Mississippi Museums on Friday and Saturday, June 17th and 18th, admission is free. For more on these and other Juneteenth events, head to visitjackson.com.
And now more of my conversation with Pam Junior.
Paul: Pam, if you brought friends and family into Jackson, where are some of your favorite places that you might take them and show them? What does your Jackson look like?
Pam: My Jackson looks like going to our museums here. I would start at Smith Robertson Museum and Culture Center. I would give them the history of Farish Street and talk about my grandfather and how he would go to the clubs on Farish Street. And from there, I'd bring them of course, to the Two Mississippi Museums, where they'd get all of the history of Mississippi, which includes the Civil Rights movement. From there, there's so many places to eat here, but I would love for them to have some good old soul food. Maybe we go to Miss Sweetie Pie's or maybe we go to Bully's Restaurant just for them to feel the essence of Jackson.
Paul: Jackson is a special place to so many of us, and I know it is to you too. I guess then the question is what makes Jackson so special?
Pam: Jackson is so special for me because I can be on Lynch Street and remember walking to Jackson State. I can be on Jackson State's campus, I can look one direction, I can see my grandmother's church. I can look the other direction and see my grandfather's church, and I can see where my mother was born. The history here for me is amazing. I love Jackson. I think Jackson has so much potential and so much history. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
Paul: The director of the Two Mississippi Museums, Pam Junior. Thank you so much for being here today.
Pam: Thank you. I love it. Thank you. I look forward to coming back again.
Paul: Soul Sessions is a production of Visit Jackson. Our executive producers are Jonathan Pettus and Rickey Thigpen. To learn more about our organization and mission, head to visitjackson.com. I'm your host, Paul Wolf and you've been listening to Soul Sessions.