"Juneteenth" is a combination of June and nineteenth. It was June 19, 1865 when federal forces led by Major Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to proclaim that the Civil War was over and that the slaves were now free. On Sept. 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued a preliminary emancipation stating that slaves would be freed in any of the Confederate States of America that did not return to the Union by Jan. 1, 1863. None of the states returned and on Jan. 1, 1863, the slaves were technically free.
However, it wasn't until the end of the Civil War that enforcement was possible in Texas. In Texas, according to the Texas State Library and Archives commission website, "Large celebrations on June 19 began in 1866 and continued regularly into the early 20th century." Later they spread to other states.
According to Loretta Slaton Torain, chairman of the local committee said, "This is the 17th year this is being held in the Dunkirk area."
In 1996, citizens of the Dunkirk-Fredonia community co-sponsored the first Juneteenth Celebration to be observed in Chautauqua County. The main goal of this celebration is to commemorate and perpetuate the heritage, culture and contributions of African Americans.
This year the two-day event was held at the Chautauqua County Fairgrounds.
Bianca Moore, a committee member, said that there are about 20 committee members this year. The holiday is important to her. She said, "This is part of black history. People from different cultures can come to celebrate with us and learn."
OBSERVER Photo by Diane R. Chodan
The choir from Friendship Baptist Church in Dunkirk participated in the worship service opening the second day of Dunkirk’s Juneteenth Celebration. Left to right: Amanda Bollinger, Ruthann Whitfield, Virginia Harper, Sandy Lewis, Betty Waller, and Justin Whitfield.
Rev Early G. Waller preached to those attending the noon service which opened the second day of the Juneteenth event.
He said, "Juneteenth is a time to reflect on where we came from." Rev. Waller used Exodus Chapter 14 from the Bible to illustrate his sermon.
He said, "When it seems impossible, stand still. God has brought us a long way. ... We are many times faced with the impossible but with Him all things are possible."
Walter Postell and Curtis William, deacons, led the those worshipping in a Gospel Song. In addition, the Faith Baptist Church choir inspired those present with their traditional gospel sound. Choir members included Amanda Bollinger, Ruthann Whitfield, Virginia Harper, Sandy Lewis, Betty Waller, and Justin Whitfield.
The afternoon and evening was devoted to gospel music. A Gospel Fest began at about 2 p.m. In the evening Ladies Elite, Dunkirk; New Gospel Sounds, Dunkirk; Harmonizers of Faith, Erie, Pa., and Backwood Travelers, Erie, Pa. performed.
Food, vendors, and games were also on site at Floral Hall. In all, it was a family-friendly celebration.
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