ALEXANDRIA,VA – Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day, is an American holiday that commemorates the June 19, 1865, announcement of the abolishment of slavery in the state of Texas, and more generally the emancipation of enslaved Africans throughout the former Confederacy of the Southern United States. On Wednesday, June 19, the Freedom House celebrated the holiday with a history lesson on the road less traveled by the enslaved people from Africa.
“This is one of the most important places in the City of Alexandria,” Mayor Justin Wilson, who read a city proclamation, said at a ceremony at Shiloh Baptist Church. “[To] the descendants of those who were enslaved and the descendants of those who enslaved, we have work to do. We see those disparities in housing, educational attainment, in economic justice and that means we have work to do in the government, in our nonprofit communities, in our faith communities and we need to expand those partnerships in the future and continue to address those disparities moving forward.”
The program was presented by The Northern Virginia Urban League, which was founded by Canon John C. Davis in Alexandria in the early 1970s when many institutions where still segregated. Davis, a Black Episcopal priest became the pastor of Meade Memorial Episcopal Church from 1959 – 1972. He was discontent as his peers with the status quo in Alexandria. Father Davis used his influence to work with other community activist to improve conditions for Blacks. A catalyst for change, he encouraged his congregation to get involved in the Civil Rights Movement. The Urban League in Alexandria was started to deal with segregation related issues and to right the wrongs in the community.
Gary J. Carr, President of the Northern Virginia Urban League Guild, acknowledged that this is a little-known fact in American history that is not commonly talked about.
“We need to be able to connect our history to this generation as a way to bridge the gap and bring us together as a people,” Carr said.
Not knowing where you come from is something that has gone through the minds of the descendants of the enslaved. Additionally, Dr. Juanita Patience Moss, an author who has written and published nine books, revealed her newest book, “Deeply Rooted In North Carolina,” and gave the audience that gathered a history lesson on a man named Patience. Patience, who is a descendant of Dr. Moss and, is one of many former slaves who would go on to impact the world in several capacities.
The Juneteenth keynote address was delivered by Rev. Dr. Barry C. Black, who is the chaplain for the U.S. Senate. Dr. Black’s message was titled “Endure suffering like good soldiers,” and the message was well received and brought home the true meaning of Juneteenth.