Juneteenth Celebrations Set for Historic, Personal Reasons

Tristan and Sierra celebrate June 19 as Juneteenth and when they first imagined being Mr. and Mrs. Koerner. They’re celebrating in Nashville. Courtesy photo.

By Clint Confehr

FRANKLIN, TN — Celebrations of freedom from slavery starting in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865 grow annually.

Juneteenth was the day of emancipation for the last slaves in this nation as announced by Union troops in Galveston 10 weeks after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered.

Juneteenth celebrations are different everywhere. Two examples are in Middle Tennessee.

• Publicly, the African American Heritage Society of Williamson County hosts its Annual Juneteenth Celebration on Saturday June 15 at the McLemore House Museum, 446 11th Ave. N. Among other activities, society members will remember people enslaved at Carter House, 1140 Columbia Ave., near the Franklin Battlefield. The Carters’ basement protected them and two slaves’ infant son from the battle.

• Privately, Juneteenth is important to a Louisville couple to become Mr. and Mrs. Tristan and Sierra Koerner in 2020. They visit Nashville June 19-22. June 19, 2018, she became his girlfriend. Engaged since March 29, Sierra “takes pride in her heritage,” Koerner said. “Her African-American grandparents were slaves and very young when they had children. I take pride in diversity,” he said. His grandfather is from Calcutta, India. His mother is from families in Spain and Greece. She has grandparents who were enslaved.

Juneteenth is a time to remember and share stories of how freedom changed lives, the society states. Its celebration begins at 11 a.m. when members of American Legion Post 215 raises American and Juneteenth flags.

Descendants of Carter House slaves are invited to the society’s celebration, Franklin resident Carol Lane said. Her great grandfather was Oscar Carter Jr., an infant during the Nov. 30, 1864 Civil War battle.

“He was put in a bassinet and hidden in the basement of the Carter House when the troops came in. That’s the way it was told to me,” said Lane, 58. “His mother, I think, was upstairs when the soldiers came in. I think she was” a house servant.

“We’re … to get together as many of the Carter House descendants as we can” for Juneteenth, Lane said at the Natchez Street Community Center. “My grandfather had 12 children. On the Carter side, I think there were 14. My mother, Georgia Lane, was the oldest descendant when she died” at 94.

She’s visited the Carter House basement; “took pictures of it and everything,” said Lane, who worked many years at Freeman-Webb apartments. Recalling change here over decades in what was a rural town, Lane said, “I think the change is coming slowly. As the singer-songwriter, Sam Cooke, said, ‘Change is Gonna Come.’” NPR has called the song “one of the most important songs of the civil rights era.”

Juneteenth in Franklin has games, story-telling, a cakewalk, door prizes, local artwork, gospel music, food vendors and T-shirts. For more, call (615) 243-7751 or (615) 944-8993.

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