On June 19th, 1865, two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and two months after general Robert E. Lee surrendered at the Appomattox Courthouse, federal troops arrived in Texas. U.S General Gordon Granger stood in Galveston, Texas, and read aloud General Orders No. 3: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
Thus began Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Communities across our nation come together on the days surrounding June 19th to celebrate African American freedom, education, and accomplishment.
This year, Juneteenth festivities will kickoff Friday, June 18th with a book signing at the Blytheville Library from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm. Join us for a celebration of local authors and writing, featuring new works on Mississippi County and Arkansas history.
Arkansas State University Professor Dr. Cherisse Jones-Branch, author of Arkansas Women, will be signing her new book, Better Living by Their Own Bootstraps: Black Women’s Activism in Rural Arkansas, 1914-1965. Mrs. Fina M. Robertson will be representing her new work, Finding Me: My First Forty-Eight. Rev. Emmanuel Lofton, featured subject of Son of the Delta: the Life and Legacy of Reverend Emmanuel Lofton, will be signing his book History That Has Not Been Told: the Cultural Experience of African Americans in America. Come visit with these authors and learn about their writing, experience, and perspective.
The highlight of the book signing event, however, will be youth authors! Local young people participated in the Celebrate! Maya Project, which chose Mississippi County as one of its 2020 communities of focus. Over the course of the year-long endeavor, each teenager had to identify and interview a local history-maker. They attended several writing workshops, where they fine-tuned their ideas and were able to work with editors and publishers. The final essays are compiled in A Chapter in Mississippi County History: Mississippi County Youth Writing & History Immersion Project. Many of the youth authors and their history-making subjects will be present to sign books and answer questions at the June 18th Book Signing. Make plans to attend and support local emerging authors!
After the Book Signing event, the Juneteenth celebration will continue with a 7:00 pm parade. At 7:45 pm, gather at The Ritz for an outdoor showing of “Juneteenth Movie 2021,” complete with free refreshments! Head to Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church on Saturday, June 19th, from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm to visit the COVID-19 Victims of Mississippi County Memorial and the Quilts of the Delta display. Stay for the Sickle Cell Blood Drive and a health screening. Use the time to commemorate the end of slavery and remember the amazing contributions of African Americans to the Mississippi County community.
And don’t forget to visit the library! Check out books on Juneteenth, local history, and African American history. If you have an idea for a service or resource the Mississippi County Library System could provide, or would like to volunteer at one of our library branches, let us know! As always, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org anytime with questions or suggestions.