COLUMBIA — Union Gen. Gordon Granger and his troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, 146 years ago Sunday to declare that the Civil War had ended and that those who were enslaved were emancipated.
June 19, or Juneteenth, commemorates the abolition of slavery. Columbians gathered in Douglass Park on Sunday afternoon to honor history, share food and attend services with one another. The Parks and Recreation Department and Chosen Generation Ministries hosted the event.
Beneath the sheltered area, Bishop Lorenzo Lawson was busy coordinating the event, making sure there were enough chairs for everyone and talking to young children. Lawson and his wife were the driving forces behind the Juneteenth celebration.
“It’s a spirit of freedom,” Lawson said. He conducted his regular Sunday church services at Douglass Park to reach out to more people.
Randall G. Williams, known as “Seteye,” came to the event to support Lawson, his best friend of 40 years.
“If it never was (for the) Emancipation Proclamation, it would be something else. … I know I would have died,” Williams said.
Overlooking the festivities under the main sheltered area was Earnestine Campbell, 53, an art seller from Arkansas. She sat in the shade of some trees with an array of paintings of prominent black figures such as Barack Obama and realist paintings depicting the lives of African Americans.
“There are older and younger children who don’t know the history of the Juneteenth,” Campbell said. “This is a culmination of something that was very painful and unforgiving to some people.”
Campbell said she hopes to teach in Missouri one day and vowed to make sure she would show the connection between history and her students.
“Times have really changed, seeing how people are more open to intermingling,” she said. “To see all races celebrate it, this is a meaning of Martin Luther King and all that. Truly, dreams do come true.”