Marietta College celebrates Juneteenth

JANELLE PATTERSON The Marietta Times Baffour Paapa Nkrumah-Ababio paints the Pan-African flag on the hand of Marietta College student James Knox, left, Monday at the college's celebration of Juneteenth.

Independence Day in the United States is celebrated on July 4 each year, but it’s not the only day of freedom celebrated in the nation.

“Just like the Fourth of July, this should have the same national recognition, this is when a large number of people were actually free,” said Dr. Nkenge Friday, director of diversity and inclusion at Marietta College, as she celebrated with students and staff the history of Juneteenth on Monday.

“Juneteenth is actually on June 19, giving us time to learn a couple days early so you can celebrate yourself and really learn more about the history,” she said, inviting faculty to learn about the Pan-African Flag, the music and cultures celebrated with the official end of slavery in the United States, and specifically the final state to recognize that end–Texas–on June 19, 1865.

It’s a date more of significance in recognizing where freedom was last recognized in the South, where Maj. General Gordon Granger announced: “All slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”

It was far from the end of racism or marginalization, but it was a cause to celebrate.

“Now the celebration means accomplishment, and being a part of that legacy where we’re in a country where injustice still exists, and even after on paper we’re supposed to be seen as equal, equality was hard to find for generations to come,” said James Knox, 20, of Charleston, W.Va.

Knox is a rising senior at the college and said he has learned about the holiday and black history as a whole story more in college than as an adolescent.

“I didn’t know anything about Juneteenth until college,” he said. “We learned about great people during Black History Month, but even in high school, all we’re taught is that slavery ended with Abraham Lincoln.”

And that’s a story which Eunice Beya, 22, of the Democratic Republic of Congo, was eager to research before Monday.

“Even though the Emancipation Proclamation was signed on Jan. 1, 1863, it wasn’t until two years after that the slaves were officially free and the newspapers were announcing the celebrations and the music and songs and history of the slaves,” she explained. “My first semester here when we learned about history, I didn’t even know about Juneteenth, but it’s truly a celebration not only of the end of slavery but the culture of African peoples.”

Baffour Paapa Nkrumah-Ababio, 24, of Marietta, was painting the Pan-African flag on hands and faces at the celebration Monday, explaining the colors and their symbols pertinent not only to Juneteenth but to African history in the U.S.

“It’s for the unity of all people black, the red representing the blood shed by Africans in Africa and in the Americas, the green showing the growth and fertility and the black the richness of the cultures,” he described to Knox.

“When we see videos and stories about Africa, it’s about the children starving, and the poverty,” said Knox. “But we don’t see the kings, the culture and the food. I’d invite people to learn more, to celebrate the good there, too.”

About Juneteenth:

• Also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, Juneteenth is a combination of “June” and “nineteenth,” in honor of the day that Maj. General Gordon Granger announced the abolition of slavery in Texas.

• Granger landed at Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were free.

• This was two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which had become official Jan. 1, 1863.

• However, the proclamation had had little impact in Texas because of minimal Union occupancy to enforce the new executive order.

Source: Times research.