Natchitoches’ Ben D. Johnson Park was the place to be Tuesday, June 19th for a celebration with a purpose as a group of around 200 residents, children, political and religious leaders gathered together for the city’s 10th annual Juneteenth Celebration.
Juneteenth commemorates the June 19th arrival of Union forces under Major General Gordon Granger who landed in Galveston, Texas with news that the Civil War was over and that the slaves living in the vanquished Confederacy were now in the words of the Emancipation Proclamation “…forever free…” The war had been effectively over since General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox in April of 1865, with the Army of the Trans-Mississippi surrendering June, 2nd 1865. Word traveled more slowly in those days when Texas was still frontier country. The arrival of General Granger and 2,000 Union troops to occupy Galveston brought freedom to every corner of the former Confederacy. General Granger read his General Order # 3, implementing the Emancipation Proclamation, from the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa, which still stands today.
The order reads in part “… The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, 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….”
Randy Stelly was recognized for his long time support of the Natchitoches Juneteenth celebration as was local musical legend Hardrick Rivers. Recent Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts graduate Adreanna Queen read a piece concerning the Juneteenth holiday. Ms. Queen will be heading to LSU’s Honors College in the fall. Following the presentations, the crowd was entertained by music and served some superb cooking.