Several events are taking place in Caldwell County this weekend to celebrate Juneteenth, a federal holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States after the Civil War. Juneteenth events include a cemetery tour and community celebration in Dotson Park.
Juneteenth is on June 19, which is the day in 1865 that Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger and Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas. Granger read General Order No. 3, which reads as follows:
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
For reference, President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had been ratified on Jan. 1, 1863, roughly two years earlier. Slavery was not officially abolished until the passage of the 13th amendment, which was ratified in 1865.
The announcement by Granger led to celebration in Texas. It first became an official holiday in Texas on Jan. 1, 1980. Many states followed suit, and President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law on June 17, 2021, officially making the day a national holiday.
One way the community is marking the occasion is with cemetery tours. Organized by Carolyn Traum, this walking tour will highlight the historic African American sections of Cedar Hill Cemetery in Princeton. There will be two tours; one on Saturday, June 18 from 7 to 8 a.m. and one on Sunday, June 19 from 4 to 5 p.m.
Each group is limited to 20 people, and reservations must be made. Cost is $5, which will help fund the Caldwell County Genealogy Society Cemetery Restoration fund. Reservations can be made by calling or texting 270-339-8712.
There will also be a community picnic at Princeton’s Dotson Park on June 19 to spread the message that “We are Better Together.” The event promises an afternoon of fun, games, music and more. This is the second year that the program has been held, with last year’s event happening just days after Juneteenth was declared a national holiday.
The set up will begin at 2 p.m. with youth activities following at 3 p.m. There will also be a program at 7 p.m. to better explain the history and meaning behind Juneteenth that will be geared toward engaging the youth in understanding this important part of history.
Fireworks at dusk will cap off the event. The community is encouraged to bring folding tables, chairs, picnic baskets and coolers and enjoy this family event.