Leaders of Gainesville’s African American community are hosting the city’s 12th annual Juneteenth Community Celebration this weekend.
The celebration is set for Saturday, June 15, and commemorates the end of slavery in Texas in 1865.
The slate of events begins Friday evening, June 14, with a public pool party from 7:30-9:30 p.m. at the Leonard Park Aquatic Center, 1000 W. California St. Children 10 and under must have their parents present at the pool.
A community picnic will be served 3-7 p.m. Saturday at B.P. Douglas Park, 529 Throckmorton. Music, dancing and children’s activities will also be taking place, according to information from the celebration committee. A children’s dance contest will start at 7:30 p.m.
Community organizations will also have informational booths at the picnic, according to James Hughes, chairman of the celebration committee.
Meals will be delivered to elderly and homebound residents for lunch on Saturday.
Activity admission and meals are all free to the public and are funded through donations to the committee.
Monetary or supply donations may be made to the committee by contacting Hughes at 940-902-7180. Those interested in receiving a home-delivered meal should also call Hughes.
In addition, the committee is seeking volunteers to help with the picnic or with delivering meals to homebound residents.
Juneteenth marks the anniversary on June 19, 1865, of the arrival of Union soldiers at Galveston under Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger. The regiment’s arrival represented the first time that the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 was enforced in Texas, freeing enslaved African Americans.
“In the South, we just didn’t get any information,” Hughes said. Historians are unsure why news of the proclamation was delayed for two and a half years, but when Granger did finally deliver the news in Texas, reaction to it “ranged from pure shock to immediate jubilation,” according to a summary of the holiday’s history on Juneteenth.com.
“I’m more appreciative of it for what it means to us, that we finally got the word,” Hughes said. “We got the word that we were free.”