The Lynchburg Juneteenth Coalition’s annual festival will this year feature a timeline of events starting with the 1619 arrival of the first African slaves in Virginia and continuing to the present day — a 400-year journey that’s being commemorated this year.
Juneteenth is observed each year on June 19 to mark when news of emancipation reached Texas, as Union soldiers landed in Galveston in 1865 to proclaim the Civil War had ended and the enslaved were free.
The Lynchburg Juneteenth Coalition’s event, “The Journey Continues,” begins at 10:30 a.m. Saturday with a freedom walk around Miller Park led by Kuumba Dance Ensemble drummers.
It will be followed by the timeline, read by storyteller Muriel Mickles, Central Virginia Community College’s vice president of academic and student affairs.
“We start out at 1619, talking about the transatlantic arrival of the slaves, and then who they were,” including Isabella and Antony, who were allowed to marry and in 1624 gave birth to the first black child in what would become the U.S., says Phyllistine Mosley, one of the event organizers.
Each point in the timeline features reenactors portraying key people, as well as musical performances.
“The storyteller is going to tell the story following [along] the timeline and after each segment or each year, we’re going to either have praise dancers or singing or spoken word,” Mosley says.
After the 1619 entry, the timeline jumps ahead to 1861, when a commander at Fort Monroe refused to return three escaped slaves back to their owner, declaring them “contraband of war.” Reenactors will depict the slaves’ escape while a song called “Steal Away” is performed in the background, Mosley says.
Other points in the timeline include the Civil War and emancipation, with the Rev. Paul Boothby reading the Emancipation Proclamation dressed as Abraham Lincoln; the signing of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, known as the Civil War Amendments, which outlawed slavery, defined citizenship and ensured voting rights, paired with the song “We Shall Overcome;” the fight for women’s suffrage, highlighting women in Lynchburg who paid their poll taxes, three of whom were black; and the 2008 election of President Barack Obama.
Once the timeline is complete, Mosley says the regular Juneteenth program will begin and run from noon to 3 p.m., featuring performances by local musicians. Lynchburg City Councilman Sterling Wilder will speak, and Mayor Treney Tweedy will read the Juneteenth Proclamation, followed by a group sing-along of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
Vendors — mostly agencies for children and families, Mosley says, as well as local fraternities and sororities — also will be set up in Miller Park, along with a book tent where local black authors will be on hand to talk to attendees.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun this year because of the way we’ve mixed it up with all of the local performers,” Mosley says. “We pretty much [are] encouraging local performers to shine and have them on the program.”