Fort Smith regional members of the Juneteenth Planning Commission, Inc. (JPCI), gathered at Martin Luther King (MLK) Park on Thursday (June 7) for the annual flag-raising ceremony commemorating Juneteenth, commonly referred to as “America’s Second Independence Day,” which effectively ended slavery in the United States.
On Jan. 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation granted slaves throughout the United States freedom, but since the country was still firmly entrenched in a civil war, many affected by the practice did not realize the benefits of independence until June 19, 1865—the day when Union General Gordon Granger stood from the balcony of the Ashton Villa in Galveston, Tx., and read General Order No. 3, which announced that “all slaves are free.”
Granger continued: “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.”
Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders and City Director Andre Good as well as Bharath Mohan and Kevin Hunt from Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe’s staff, were on-hand to mark the occasion, which is the first of several Juneteenth events in the city.
On Saturday (June 9), a Summer Jam at Harry E. Kelley Park in Fort Smith will run from 2 p.m. to midnight, and will feature musical acts Yung Joc, the Zapp Band, and Brittany Bullock, along with a number of additional performances.
The Juneteenth Community Festival from MLK and Hartgraves Parks will take place on June 15 and 16, and will host a car/bike show, soccer and softball tournaments, and 3-on-3 basketball. This event will precede Prayer on the Lawn at MLK on June 17, and two additional events, to be announced, on June 23 and 30.