In her autobiography, “My Life with Martin Luther King Jr.,” his widow, Coretta Scott King, wrote, “Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation.”
Scott King wrote the book a year after her husband was assassinated while advocating for the rights of Black sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. Then and now, the struggle for unbridled freedom is one that persists for African Americans, and Juneteenth is emblematic of trials and triumphs. Emory started recognizing Juneteenth as an official holiday last year; it will be observed on campus and elsewhere on Monday, June 19.
President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, and all enslaved people were supposed to be freed. However, for enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, enslavement did not end until Union troops arrived in Galveston on June 19, 1865, and declared that all enslaved people were free, which would be reinforced by the 13th Amendment later that year. Those troops also encouraged them to stay and work for pay on the existing plantations. The date became known as Emancipation Day, Freedom Day or Juneteenth.
Even after Juneteenth, Jim Crow laws prevented African Americans from voting, learning to read, owning property and determining the value of their labor. This struggle continued, as exemplified by antilynching campaigns in the 1920s and 1930s as well as by the 1960s civil rights movement. It continues today as Black Lives Matter activists push for systemic changes and equal opportunity.
Even amid the struggles, African Americans have celebrated Juneteenth to honor the ancestors and mark community resilience. To that end, this year, Emory events and initiatives focus on extending longevity to Black life and culture. Here are a few events, resources and initiatives to look forward to for Juneteenth:
1. Button-making and resources
Celebrate freedom and honor those who struggled for equal rights at the Emory Libraries’ Juneteenth button-making event. On the Atlanta campus, anyone can stop in on Wednesday, June 14, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. in the entrance lobby of the Woodruff Library. At the Oxford College Library, button-making will take place all day. This event is free, and all art supplies will be provided by Emory Libraries.
The librarians also developed a new Juneteenth resource guide, listing books, podcasts and oral histories, video and audio recordings, articles, community events and resources for kids.
2. Wellness panel discussion with Q&A
On Thursday, June 15, Noon-1:30 p.m., there will be a virtual panel, “Giving Voice: Cultivating a Culture of Black Wellness,” hosted by the Emory University School of Medicine and the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. During this discussion, contributors will focus on three areas of health: mental, physical and spiritual, followed by a Q&A session. Panelists include Kalisha Bonds Johnson, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing, whose research focuses on African American women as caregivers; Clevevoya Gaston, outreach coordinator for the Faculty Staff Assistance Program, who focuses on cultural diversity in the workplace; and Rev. Tolton Pace 00C 02PH, co-president of the Caucus of Emory Black Alumni.
3. Community health festival
Emory Healthcare is hosting a Juneteenth Community Health Festival on Saturday, June 17, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at House of Hope Atlanta. This all-day event will include health screenings, a farmer’s market, games, giveaways and more. There will be health talks throughout the day with Emory experts addressing several topics such as diabetes prevention, hypertension management, advocating for yourself in the doctor’s office and memory care.
In addition, attendees will be encouraged to take a health pledge to see their provider for a checkup within the next 12 months. Those who take the pledge will be entered for a chance to win tickets to the November 26 Atlanta Falcons football game versus the New Orleans Saints.
4. Praise House Project
Atlanta artist Charmaine Minniefield will be bringing her Praise House Project to Emory in the fall. The Praise House features videos of people across the African diaspora dancing and singing, projected onto the walls of a small white replica of a 19th-century praise house. Listen to the podcast “Might Could — Stories of Innovation in the ATL,” hosted by Shannon Clute, director of The Hatchery, Center of Innovation at Emory, as he interviews Anne Dennington of Flux Projects and Minniefield about the project. The two recently collaborated on a project to honor more than 800 recently discovered, unmarked African American graves in Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery.
In addition, on Sunday, June 18, the Praise House Project joins the families of South-View in a celebration of music and performances in honor of the history that rests at this important historic site. Then, on Monday, June 19, audiences can listen to oral history interviews, tour the historic burial grounds and volunteer in community service projects on site and in the surrounding areas.