A number of events will be held Saturday in Loudoun County to commemorate Juneteenth, the day when all Black people in the United States learned they were free from slavery.
Here’s what you need to know:
History behind Juneteenth
Although the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln freed enslaved Black people in 1863, slaves in Galveston, Texas, the last of the former Confederate states to abolish slavery, were unaware until two and a half years later.
The date they learned they could be free — on June 19, 1865 — became the signature moment when all Black people in America were set free from slavery.
State and local government action
Last June, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) signed an executive order making Juneteenth a permanent paid state holiday in Virginia for state employees.
Then on Jan. 19, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors added Juneteenth as a paid county holiday to its calendar.
Last September, local leaders had the opportunity to consult with the oldest member of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, Opal Lee. The foundation has helped more than 40 states establish Juneteenth as a day of observance, Virginia among them.
Lee stopped in Loudoun following her visit to the nation’s capital, where she presented 1.54 million signatures to Congress as encouragement to ratify legislation that would make Juneteenth a Title 5 federal holiday.
9:30 a.m.: March through Leesburg
In downtown Leesburg, the NAACP Loudoun Branch and The Freedom Center is partnering to present the celebration event, “Reclaiming the Promise of a People” starting at 9:30 am.
Marchers will walk from the Loudoun County Courthouse in Leesburg to the Orion Anderson Lynching Memorial where Harrison Street and Depot Court meet.
The deed to 4.76 acres of the Coton Plantation, once owned by the Lee Family, will be presented to the leaders of the Freedom Center. The land will be used to build a church and a more expansive Freedom Center.
Further, a quilt used to signal members of the Underground Railroad, known as a “Safe Haven quilt,” will be presented. The quilt was stitched by Quakers in a log cabin patchwork design and is believed to have been a part of the network of abolitionists organized by William Still, according to organizers of the event.
Michelle Thomas, president of the NAACP Loudoun Branch, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D), and Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.-10th) are scheduled to speak at the event.
11 a.m.: ‘Prosperity Through Juneteenth’ at Claude Moore Park
The Loudoun County Juneteenth Committee will kick off its celebration plans starting with a car caravan from Belmont Country Club at 11 a.m. to Claude Moore Park in Sterling where the festivities will begin at noon.
The legendary Buffalo Soldiers will present the flags to begin a day of readings, poetry and re-enactments.
Gospel music will be provided by the Rev. Isaac Howard and the Howard Harmonizers. Then in the late afternoon, legendary blues singer Johnny Rawls will perform followed by jazz and funk by the Funkativity band.
Games and food will be available.
This year’s theme is “Prosperity Through Juneteenth,” with the focus on the mental, physical and financial aspects of personal prosperity, according to event organizers.
No charge for entry or parking. People are urged to bring their own blanket and/or chair. Event organizers will adhere to all CDC guidelines including social distancing guidelines.
Visit juneteenthloudoun.org for more details.
12 p.m.: Celebration at Ida Lee Park
The “Burg” Family Reunion Club will be hosting its first Juneteenth Celebration at Ida Lee Park in Leesburg starting at noon, featuring the Chuck Brown Band and keynote speaker and Loudoun County Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large).
The club grew of everyone’s mutual connection to Leesburg, “Burg” for short, and interest to preserve the memories of Black descendants from Leesburg and support local Black American senior citizens, youth and families.
Additionally, the club has a focus on local Black American fathers by providing programs that will benefit our young Black American males.
Visit thebfrc.com for more information.