Event celebrates the end of slavery
By James Peacemaker, Jr. Managing Editor
Jun 24, 2014, 11:13
JAMES PEACEMAKER JR./HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Members of the Mark Mathews Chapter of Petersburg “Buffalo Soldiers” line up to take photos of the Fort Lee Brass Band on Saturday at Appomattox Manor in Hopewell during the Juneteenth celebration.
HOPEWELL — More than a hundred people gathered Saturday at City Point to celebrate Juneteenth.
The celebration of the emancipation of slaves after the Civil War couldn’t have happened at a more appropriate location, according to Chris Bryce, chief of interpretation of Petersburg National Battlefield.
Appomattox Manor, which served as the backdrop for the celebration, served as the Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s headquarters during the Siege of Petersburg, the final nine months of the war. The North used the location as a major point to bring in supplies for the war.
The celebration is coincided with the 150th anniversary of the siege.
“It is very positive for our community,” Bryce said.
Bryce said the role of the U.S. Colored Troops in the war here makes this celebration important as well.
“Now coming back as liberators, that is an important moment … something that was unthinkable just four short years earlier,” Bryce said.
Bryce said this is “not just a memorable day in June.” He said it is important to recognize the day’s national importance. But he said surprisingly the anniversary gets little attention today.
Chris Bryce, chief of interpretation at Petersburg National Battlefield speaks about the history of Juneteenth and how it is especially relevant in the Tri-Cities.
He said it is disappointing that the event gets so little attention, but said that schools, churches and businesses need to work together to raise awareness.
“We cannot raise the nation’s awareness single-handedly,” he said.
Juneteenth originated in Galveston, Texas, where slaves learned of their freedom on June 19, 1865. Celebrations spread across the country. Next year will be the 150th anniversary.
At the event in Hopewell on Saturday, there were numerous re-enactors, including Teresa G, who portrayed several characters, and members of the Buffalo Soldiers Mark Matthews Chapter of Petersburg. Members of the Army Band and the Christian rap duo Adam II Crew performed as well.
Rebecca Rose, of the Washington Cultural Foundation which organized the event, said this event is not just a day to be celebrated by African-Americans.
“It’s a nation of all citizens together,” she said.