Thursday, June 4, 2009

Juneteenth: Get Involved

Juneteenth (June 19th) is a very important day locally in northwestern Pennsylvania and throughout the nation and actually throughout the world. On this day in 1865, which falls on a Friday this year, federal troops announced to a group of people in Texas they had been freed years earlier on January 1, 1863 when President Lincoln abolished slavery when he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. There are a lot of theories regarding the long-time delay.
Meadville, Pennsylvania will commemorate the day, on the 19th, with a number of activities as the community has done for many, many years. Melissa Burnett of the NAACP has been working hard on getting the events organized and will be sending a schedule of events has soon as it becomes finalized.
For several years, the day was marked by a long march from downtown Meadville to the John Brown Farm and Museum some 12 miles away in New Richmond. There was always a good turn-out and a nice picnic after the long walk Freedom Walk. Events this year, as last year, will be held at Diamond Park in the city.
John Brown was a leading abolitionist just prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. He is perhaps best known for his raid on the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry. Brown, prior to that, had established a tannery and farm at New Richmond.
He was active, along with many other Meadville residents and churches, in the Underground Railroad, one of the largest civil disobedience movements in American history. Thousands of slaves found their way to freedom with the help of many farm families, churches and other organizations despite the strict penalties for helping the slaves. It was flat out illegal.
Historically, Meadville was a hotbed of unrest over the issue of slavery. The Civil Rights movement in the city and throughout the northwest Pennsylvania region, was always very active. There are many notable events such as early school desegregation, voting and property rights and political opportunities.
Thousands from this area served in the Union forces and thousands were killed, just visit any of the local cemeteries. These unsung and often forgotten heroes sacrificed for us today and helped to create the ongoing process of complete equality and civil rights, a struggle, while advances have been made, needs to be furthered. Juneteenth is the day to celebrate those folks and renew our efforts.
Once the schedule is set, it will be posted here, hopefully in a couple days or so. Get involved in the struggle, there is more to be done. For more information on some of the history click on any of the underlined links or click the title.

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