First Juneteenth Celebration Event in Lancaster, Ohio

You may be unaware of the newest federal holiday, Juneteenth, but it has been celebrated since 1866, mainly by those in the black community. Now, others are beginning to recognize the holiday and its history.

What is Juneteenth and why do we celebrate it?

During the Civil War, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. This proclamation freed slaves held in confederate states and allowed blacks to join the Union Army. However, the state of Texas, being far to the west and void of Union troops, continued the practice of slavery.

It wasn’t until June 19, 1865 (after the war was over), that Union General Gordon Granger entered Galveston, Texas with more than 2,000 troops to issue General Order Number 3. This order stated that all slaves in the state of Texas were now free.

At this time, there were around 250,000 slaves in the state and they were unaware of Lincoln’s proclamation two years earlier. This order ensured that all slaves were now aware of their freedom. Six months later, congress ratified the 13th amendment, officially abolishing the practice of slavery in the country.

Although General Order Number 3 proclaimed all slaves to be free, it wouldn’t happen immediately. For many slaves, life continued as usual… in bondage. It would take the presence of soldiers and officers willing to enforce the law to bring an end to the practice. Juneteenth is remembered, not as the day that all slaves were freed, but as the day they were told they were free.

On Monday, June 19, 2023, the City of Lancaster, Ohio held its first-ever Juneteenth celebration. The event was sponsored by the Fairfield County Heritage Association, Destination Downtown Lancaster, the Black Interest Group of Lancaster, and the DEIB Committee of the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce. It was held at the Downtown Lancaster Gazebo and focused on education, celebration, and collaboration.

The event showcased speakers from our community including Cenell Boch, Jared Smith, Michael Johnson, Hollie Saunders, Amanda Everitt, and Bishop Casanova Green.

Two poets, Oscar Kamazima and Bigg, provided the audience with beautiful pieces of their work.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Elaine Richardson, gave a tremendous performance that brought the crowd to its feet. Dr. Richardson, who is an author, singer, and professor at The Ohio State University, performed several moving songs. Her speech and music were uplifting, powerful, and surely left an impact on all of those in attendance.

Lancaster’s first Juneteenth celebration was very well-attended and the organizers are already looking forward to next year.

Juneteenth Celebration organizers, speakers and performers at the Downtown Gazebo in Lancaster, Ohio.

Juneteenth Celebration organizers, speakers and performers
(pictured left to right) Amanda Everitt, Jared Smith, Cenell Boch, Michael Johnson, Hollie Saunders, Casanova Green, McKenzie Taylor, Trévera Rhea, Elaine Richardson, “Bigg”, Oscar Kamazima

Related News: The Fairfield County Heritage Association has succeeded in creating a fund to create a statue honoring Scipio Smith, the first black business owner and founder of the A.M.E. Church on Walnut Street in Lancaster, Ohio. The statue is proposed to be located next to the Ohio Glass Museum on Main Street, site of the tinsmith shop Scipio Smith owned. If you are able, please consider donating to the fund. All donations are tax deductible.

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You can also donate by contacting the Fairfield County Foundation at (740) 654-8451
or the Fairfield County Heritage Association at 740-654-9923

Filed under: Community, Histories & Mysteries, Life, Meet Your Neighbors, News, People
Michael R. Johnson, marketing director for the Fairfield County Heritage Association based in Lancaster, Ohio.

By Michael Johnson

Lancaster native Michael Johnson is the Marketing Director for the Fairfield County Heritage Association and serves as editor of the Heritage Quarterly – a magazine highlighting local history. Michael is a member of the Sherman Rotary and the Lancaster Fairfield Chamber of Commerce’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Committee. His bachelor’s degree in history education was earned at Ohio University. Michael is married to Tara Johnson and has two children, Isaac and Mia.