It took two-and-a-half years after Abraham Lincoln’s issuance on January 1, 1863 of the Emancipation Proclamation for the last of America’s slaves to get the word that they had been freed. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865, when major general Gordon Granger rode into Galveston with a document called General Order Number 3, that Texas finally fell in line with the rest of the country in abolishing human slavery. Beginning on the first anniversary of that historic event and continuing annually (with varying degrees of participation) ever since, African Americans and their friends and allies have been celebrating the date as Juneteenth. It became a state holiday in New York in 2004.
The City of Kingston has been marking Juneteenth for four years now, though not necessarily on the exact anniversary. This year’s festivities fall only a day off, on Saturday, June 18 beginning at 5 p.m. The focal point will be the New Progressive Baptist Church, located at 8 Hone Street. Honorees for 2016 will be minister Rita Worthington of the New Progressive Baptist Church and historian/author A. J. Williams-Myers, professor of Black Studies at SUNY-New Paltz. In his keynote speech, Dr. Williams-Myers will introduce a new community resource that is being named in his honor: the Library at the A. J. Williams-Myers African Roots Community Center, located at 43 Gill Street in Kingston.
Another highlight of Juneteenth 2016 in Kingston will be the donation to the new library of a collection of 25 historical photographic prints from the Civil Rights movement. Jim Peppler, who was staff photographer and photo editor at the Southern Courier newspaper from 1965 to 1968 before being hired by Newsday, was a major force in documenting Civil Rights activism and social conditions in Alabama at that time. Peppler will present the photographs in person.
The event will also feature a mask and puppet show by the Redwing Blackbird Theater of Rosendale and inspirational dancing by the Praise Dancers of the New Progressive Baptist Church. Evelyn Clarke, Ulster County Human Rights commissioner and minister at the New Progressive Baptist Church, will emcee. A free, home-cooked, Southern-style dinner will wind up the festivities.
Juneteenth Kingston is sponsored by the New Progressive Baptist Church, Kingston ENJAN (End the New Jim Crow Action Network), Woodstock Jewish Congregation’s End the New Jim Crow Task Force, LGBTQ Task Force to Undo Mass Incarceration and Institutional Racism and Citizen Action of Kingston. For additional information, phone (914) 388-3092.