By Ron Wynn
Since Fort Negley was mainly built and defended by Blacks during the Civil War, it’s a most appropriate location to hold a Juneteenth celebration. The “First Annual Juneteenth Celebration” on its grounds will be held June 22 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
This event will combine a keynote address, children’s parade, commemorative reading of the Emancipation Proclamation and other family activities.
Distinguished retired historian, author and librarian Dr. Tommie Morton-Young, who will deliver the keynote address, was a major force behind the creation of this event according to Krista Castillo, the director of Fort Negley Vistor’s Center.
“Dr. Young was very much a moving force in this event,” Castillo said. “She came to us and wanted to get us involved in doing something to recognize and acknowledge this historic event. She was also very concerned with ensuring more information about the holiday and Fort Negley become better known throughout the general community. We’re very excited about this event.”
Besides Dr. Young’s speech, councilwoman Sandra Moore will present the Pledge of Allegiance. Dennis Boggs will portray President Abraham Lincoln and read excerpts from the Emancipation Proclamation.
Additional events include re-enactments by “The United States Colored Troops, the showing of the colors, a children’s march, and a tour of the fort.
“We also encourage families to bring photo albums or any other memorabilia they have because there will be places to display and show them during the day,” Castillo said. “Between 11 and 3 p.m., some of our activities for families will include face painting, preparation of banners for the children’s parade and various games. We also encourage families to bring picnic lunches. We’ll have tables set up and space provided for them.”
Black Union soldiers constructed some 23 redoubts, or small forts, throughout Nashville during the Civil War as well as the major building at Fort Negley. One of those sites was Fort Gilliam, today the location of Fisk University. The old Union hospital, which was used throughout the war, is still in good condition and also at this site.
Juneteenth, which is also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, grew out of a celebration held in Texas on June 19, 1865 following the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. Though President Lincoln issued it on September 22, 1862, with an effective date of January 1, 1863, there were still many states where its impact had been slow to minimal.
Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas with 2,000 federal troops on June 18, 1865. The next day, while standing on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Village, he read the contents of what was officially known as “General Order No. 3,” declaring an end to slavery and the defeat of the Confederacy in that state.
Celebrations ensued in Galveston and across the state. Yearly “Juneteenth” celebrations began in Texas the following year. Today, some 42 states hold “Juneteenth” holiday observances.
Fort Negley is open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 12 noon – 4 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. during the summer. It is a dawn to dusk fort. The Visitor’s Center is open from 12 noon – 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information call 862-8470.