Inaugural Juneteenth in Yuma Celebrates the End of Slavery

Jun 13, 2017

This June 19th marks the 152nd anniversary of delayed freedom.  “Juneteenth”, as it is called, marks the day Texas slaves were freed, two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.   KAWC’s Maya Springhawk Robnett reports on Yuma’s plans for the city’s inaugural Juneteenth celebration...

The reasons for this deferred freedom are historically unclear: the news messenger might have been killed or slave-owners might have knowingly withheld news of the Proclamation to keep slaves through the end of cotton harvest.  It wasn’t until June 19th, 1865 that U.S. General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce the freedom of all slaves in the state.

Stacey Gibson, 50, is one of the vendors for the Yuma Juneteenth Celebration, selling her homemade peach cobbler.  At the monthly meeting for the Yuma Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or the NAACP, Gibson said the day also celebrates reunited families.

“Juneteenth, it represents…freedom,” Gibson nodded. “And they were able to be freed and they were able to go out and find their lost loved ones so they could know they were never discarded.”

Yuma Chapter NAACP President Norma Jones Nelson, who organized the event, said Juneteenth is also a day to appreciate African American culture. 

“It will be an opportunity for the African Americans kind of like to give the community of their culture.  And the best way to do that is by eating some of our food!” Nelson laughed. “And, you know, just celebrating as a community.”

The event will feature gospel singing, barbeque, face-painting, a watermelon-eating contest, dancing, and other entertainment.  Yuma’s Juneteenth Celebration takes place Saturday, June 17th beginning at 6:00PM on Main Street in Downtown Yuma.