By Kevin Shannahan
Various local community groups came together to host our area’s inaugural Juneteenth celebration at the downtown riverbank Friday, June 19. Juneteenth is the name given to the day in June 19, 1865 at which Union forces under General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas. One of the General’s first actions was to issue his famous General Order Number 3 which stated 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 rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection therefore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer….”
This year’s Juneteenth Celebration, much like the original event 165 years ago, was a joyous celebration of freedom. The evening started at Natchitoches’ city park and progressed to the downtown riverbank. DJ J. Corey Lamar and his crew kept spirits high with a variety of music as the crowd enjoyed pulled pork from mayoral candidate Ronnie Williams and hot dogs and meatpies from Natchitoches District Attorney Billy Harrington. The incomparable Sweeties’ BBQ was also on hand with their signature side dishes and over 250 pieces of chicken, all cooked to perfection.
The Natchitoches Chapter of the NAACP held a membership drive. The people at the party also had the opportunity to register to vote.
Northwestern State University’s Athletic Department came out to support the Juneteenth celebration in a major way. NSU Athletic Director Greg Burke was joined by NSU’s Men’s and Women’s Basketball Coaches, Track and Field Coach, Football Coach several assistant coaches, Sports Information Director and several student athletes in attending the celebration.
On the first Juneteenth, General Granger and his troops fulfilled the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 as the Stars and Stripes once more flew from every corner of this nation. The Confederacy was crushed and the evil of slavery driven from our country. It is a day worthy of remembrance and celebration!
The Natchitoches Parish Journal would like to commend all of the men and women who worked diligently to bring about this celebration. It was a delightful evening and we are looking forward to next year’s event!