As the new coordinator for Timmons Hall, I am very excited to collaborate with organizations both inside and outside of Springfield to expand on historical, cultural and educational opportunities for the next generation.
We have so many exciting initiatives converging in Springfield right now, with the opening of Timmons Hall to the dedication of a bench in honor of civil rights pioneer Linda Brown to the African American Heritage Trail to Springfield Public Schools’ weeklong Black History Summer Academy, which hosted 230 students.
I recently had the opportunity to reconnect with the intersecting cultural influences of music, art and family time time in Kansas City during their city-wide Juneteenth celebration. I met folks from St. Louis and Memphis as well.
If you look at a regional map, you can see the triangulation of these cities, with Springfield right in the middle.
Oral and photo history places some of the great musicians and artists during the segregation era in Springfield! Before or after performances in Kansas City, St. Louis or Memphis, some of the greats would be welcomed to eat at a black establishment, for fellowship in the community or perform right here in Springfield!
Recent work-related travel to Kansas City allowed me to refresh partnerships with The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and build new ones with the Black Archives of Mid-America and the American Jazz Museum in the historic 18th & Vine District.
It also allowed me to understand the resilience of a people that kept on pushing in the face of winds that were never favorable, thus setting the gold standard for the next generations to come.
The Nelson-Atkins collaborated with 18th & Vine to host the third-annual city-wide celebration of Juneteenth June 8 and 9.
The streets were packed with vendors, artists, poets and an array of created merchandise by talented youth. Educators spoke as college students, families and tourists enjoyed the American Jazz Museum and Negro Leagues Ball Museum.
Springfield’s celebration of Juneteenth will place noon-4 p.m. June 29 in Silver Springs Park. We are honored to have Kreshaun McKinney and Dr. Stephanie Fox Knappe from The Nelson-Atkins on hand at Timmons Hall to present on the 30 Americans art exhibition, on display at The Nelson-Atkins through Aug. 25.
Through more than 80 paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, photographs, and videos, 30 Americans presents American experiences as told from the distinct perspectives of 30 African American artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Carrie Mae Weems, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas, Rashid Johnson, Kara Walker, Hank Willis Thomas, and Kehinde Wiley.
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19 that the Union soldiers, led by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official Jan. 1, 1863.
The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new executive order. However, with the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee in April 1865, and the arrival of Gen. Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
Later attempts to explain this two-and-a-half-year delay in the receipt of this important news yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. Still another, is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation.
All or none of these versions may be true. Certainly, for some, President Lincoln’s authority over the rebellious states was in question. For whatever the reasons, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.
In spite of the news of the Emancipation Proclamation arriving two and a half years late … we celebrate! Juneteenth recognizes the fight for freedom and the endurance for equal rights of the brave men and women who held on for another two and half more years. We celebrate them!
General Order No. 3
One of General Granger’s first orders of business was to read to the people of Texas, General Order No. 3:
The reactions to this profound news ranged from pure shock to immediate jubilation. While many lingered to learn of this new “employer-employee” relationship, many left before these offers were completely off the lips of their former masters – attesting to the varying conditions on the plantations and the realization of freedom.
Even with nowhere to go, many felt that leaving the plantation would be their first grasp of freedom. North was a logical destination and for many it represented true freedom, while the desire to reach family members in neighboring states drove the some into Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Settling into these new areas as free men and women brought on new realities and the challenges of establishing a heretofore non-existent status for black people in America.
Recounting the memories of that great day in June 1865 and its festivities would serve as motivation as well as a release from the growing pressures encountered in their new territory. The celebration of June 19 was coined “Juneteenth” and grew with more participation from descendants. The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date. In 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday in Texas, thanks to Rep. Al Edwards.
Today, Juneteenth is enjoying a phenomenal growth rate within communities and organizations throughout the country. Juneteenth celebrates African American freedom and achievement, while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures. The celebration is an ongoing contribution of African Americans locally and worldwide throughout every home, place of worship, school, neighborhood and city that recognizes the power of people of color telling their truth through the intangible cultures of faith, resilience, love and unbowed compromise for the succession of the next generation.
Historical information supplied from Juneteenth.com.
Official Juneteenth Poem
From Africa’s heart, we rose
Already a people, our faces ebon, our bodies lean,
Skills of art, life, beauty and family
Crushed by forces we knew nothing of, we rose
Survive we must, we did,
We rose to be you, we rose to be me,
Above everything expected, we rose
To become the knowledge we never knew,
Dream, we did
Act we must