The Juneteenth Holiday
by Dr. Amilcar Shabazz, UMass/Amherst
“I would like to speak on the history of the Memorial Tablets that commemorated the service and sacrifice of men from Amherst who served as soldiers and sailors in the Civil War. These were the people who paid the ultimate price to make possible Juneteenth (the end of chattel enslavement of people of African descent in the U.S.)! Of course, I would connect the history of Juneteenth to the struggle to remember the Civil War as a common fight for freedom and to form a ‘more perfect union.’”
The lecture weaves the lives of men like Josiah Hasbrook Jr. in Amherst with individuals like Frederick Douglass who was the keynote speaker at the 31st anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation on September 24, 1894, in Alexandria, Va. to John Mercer Langston who delivered keynote speeches there in 1895 and 1897. Alexandria like Amherst has in recent decades settled on celebrating Juneteenth as the date to commemorate the ending of chattel slavery. I will answer why Juneteenth has become that special date across the country interweaving the remembrance of our veterans and the memory of the war and black liberation with the struggle right here, right now with our Memorial Tablets.