McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

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June 20, 2014

Juneteenth

Recognizing the significance goes beyond one race

McALESTER — Miller Newman says the Juneteenth celebration set for Saturday in McAlester is about more than recognizing the freeing of black Americans from slavery.

“When they outlawed slavery, they outlawed servitude,” Newman said.

“There were a whole lot of poor people who were indentured servants,” he said, referring to people from a number of races who were required to work without wages to pay for their passage to America or for some other reason.

To recognize the freeing of Americans from slavery and servitude, a Juneteenth Celebration  is set from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday at Michael J. Hunter Park, at  

Fourteenth Street and Chickasaw Avenue.

Everyone is welcome to attend, said Newman, who is president of the Pittsburg County Chapter of the NAACP.

“It’s something for the whole community,” he said.

American Legion Post 250 is set to begin the ceremony at 10 a.m. with the posting of the colors. That’s followed by the opening prayer by the Rev. Cecil Lee and the reading of a city proclamation by McAlester Mayor Steve Harrison.

Lois Phifer, in character for a portrayal of Harriet Tubman, plans

to speak on the Emancipation  Proclamation.

Lee is set to serve as the main speaker for the Juneteenth celebration. Also during the celebration, Newman plans to introduce city officials and others at the event.

Following the benediction, members of Post 250 plan to retire the colors.

“Fun in the park” activities are set to start at 11:30 a.m. and continue throughout most of the day. Concessions will be available. Newman said he hopes to have a cook-off between two individuals who both claim they are the best.

Juneteenth is a day that celebrates the freeing of African-Americans from slavery.

Although President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862, declaring an end to slavery effective Jan. 1, 1863, the nation remained embroiled in the Civil War at the time and the southern states essentially ignored the proclamation.

The Civil War ended with Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender April 9, 1865, at Appomattox, Virginia. Following the surrender of Confederate forces, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, where he read a proclamation on June 19, 1865, declaring all slaves were freed. In case anyone missed the point, Granger brought 2,000 federal troops with him to enforce the order.

Since then, a celebration has been held in June, in recognition of what is considered by many to be Emancipation Day.

Newman  believes recognizing Juneteenth is important.

“A lot  of people think we’ve arrived and we haven’t,” he said, noting for one thing the resistance to raising the current minimum wage.

“I like to keep it fresh,” said Newman.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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