By: Gayle Erwin
The Friends of Hopewell, Inc. once again this year hosted a the Juneteenth Celebration this past Saturday. The group is organized by friends for the purpose of the Restoration and Preservation of African-American Heritage in San Jacinto County. They are a State of Texas Non-Profit (501c3).
2015 brings the celebration to another milestone. The history of Juneteenth is celebrated in Texas each year. On June 19 (Juneteenth) 1865, Union General Gordon Granger read the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston, thus belatedly bringing about the freeing of 250,000 slaves in Texas. This message came to Texas over five months late, as President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation January 1, 1865. The tidings of freedom reached slaves gradually as individual plantation owners read the proclamation to their bondsmen over the months following the Civil War.
The first broader celebrations of Juneteenth were used as political rallies and to teach freed African-Americans about their voting rights. Some of these earlier emancipation festivals were regulated by city authorities to outskirts of some towns. Some Juneteenth Planning Committees collected funds to purchase tracts of land for their celebrations; examples, Emancipation Parks in Houston and Austin. In time, however, Juneteenth was marked as we know it today by festivities throughout the state and neighboring states of Louisiana and Oklahoma and other states, as African-American Texans migrated to those areas.
Production for festivities for this year began with the preparations by the Friends of Hopewell, Inc. many months ago. This years festivities began at 9:00 am on the front courthouse steps which were patriotically decorated for the event.
The Emancipation Program was opened by Mrs. Lillie Lunnon-Bosom, opening the event ceremony to all attendees. Rev. Rayfield Jefferson eloquently delivered a prayer of thankfulness for the many blessing bestowed upon the African-American race as a result of the proclamation, allowing freedom to those that were slaves in 1865. The action that has also assured the generations after that they have not had to endure the status of slavery.
Welcoming all to the event was Mrs. Ester Elmore-Wynn. Commissioner Ray McCoppin, representing San Jacinto County, presented the proclamation that was approved by Judge John Lovett, and the County Commissioners, earlier in June to declare the Juneteenth Celebration with the official proclamation. Young enthusiasts Christy and Carson Combs read the Emancipation Proclamation. The American Legion Post 629 represented by Dale Everitt, presented a Juneteenth flag for the flag ceremony. Everitt indicated that the flag would fly at the courthouse until Sunday afternoon and then placed in the courthouse for future celebrations. The flag ceremony included the singing of the Negro National Anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, led by Minister Carolyn Walker-Jefferson. The event Emancipation Program segment concluded just in time for the continuation of the events – the Juneteenth Parade.
The parade began at Old Jones High School and went to the San Jacinto County Fairgrounds. The parade was the best ever commented shop owner – Cora Standley. The Grand Marshall’s of the parade were, Emma Goolsby Prima, who will be 110 on August 5 of this year. Also serving as another Grand Marshall was Cassie (Sonny) Hutchison, who is age 103. The attendees were in awe to be able to honor these two individuals. Floats, trail riders, cars, trucks, and the like were all in the parade to celebrate Juneteenth.
Festivities for Juneteenth then moved over to the unveiling ceremony for The Hopewell Center of San Jacinto County. The center is still under construction, but was opened and enjoyed on this day of celebration. The program began with Minister Carolyn Walker-Jefferson. The ceremony included singing, and a status report of the center. Dale Everitt and Rebecca Hammond made a historic presentation to the Friends of Hopewell on this celebratory day. A lovely dinner was provided by Friends of Hopewell, Inc. A day of blessings and love was partaken of by the showing of the those attending this memorable occasion for both the Friends of Hopewell and the 150 Years of Freedom.