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Sunday, May 26, 2024

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Juneteenth Celebrated

A large contingent of Black people from Cape May County were in the 22nd U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment

By Karen Knight

WHITESBORO – Juneteenth celebrations in Whitesboro and Cape May June 19 commemorated emancipation, celebrated African American culture, and reflected on the meaning and history of the day.
At the Martin Luther King Center, in Whitesboro, the Cape May County NAACP sponsored the Second Annual Juneteenth Celebration, which brought hundreds of residents together to hear poems, songs and readings about freedom, register to vote, get information about several organizations and services in the county and enjoy games, food and camaraderie.
In Cape May, the Harriet Tubman Museum’s organizers, as well as community leaders, celebrated the museum’s inaugural season with a grand opening event (https://bit.ly/3gKUtMm), which officially opened the museum to visitors.
The museum, at the Howell House, 623 Lafayette St., had a virtual opening June 19, 2020 (https://bit.ly/3iYEewQ), due to Covid pandemic restrictions.
Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery and commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and informed enslaved African Americans that the Civil War ended and they were free. 
Granger’s message came more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The 13th Amendment was ratified a few months later, in December 1865, formally abolishing slavery in the U.S.
President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law June 17, officially making June 19 a federal holiday and giving national recognition to a day commemorating emancipation. It is the 11th federal holiday and the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created, in 1983.
Heralded as one of the 10 most anticipated museums in the world by Smithsonian Magazine and one of the 10 best new museums by USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice awards, the Harriet Tubman Museum shares the “inspiring story of an American hero, the rich history of abolitionist activism in New Jersey, and the enduring legacy of the African American community in Cape May County,” according to the museum’s website, harriettubmanmuseum.org.
During the grand opening event at Rotary Park, about 300 people heard remarks from museum organizers, as well as community leaders, reflecting on Juneteenth’s meaning and history. 
There was a ceremonial march and presentation from the 22nd U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment re-enactors to descendants of Civil War veterans, including Emily Dempsey, founder of the Center for Community Arts, in Cape May, and founding supporter of the History Committee of the Harriet Tubman Museum.
Music and dancing were presented by the Pan African Rhythm Cooperative, local drummers, performing artists and musicians who teach cultural connections with African rhythm, drums and dance. 
The Davis family was recognized, honoring Carolyn Davis and the Rev. Robert O. Davis, the last family to live in the Howell House as a parsonage until the mid-1980s. Robert Davis was pastor of the Macedonia Baptist Church for 47 years, and Carolyn Davis loaned parts of his extensive collection to the Harriet Tubman Museum for several of its exhibits.
Jason Tech-Turner, of Woodbine, led the NAACP-sponsored Freedom Ride, from Cape May through Wildwood to Whitesboro.
To contact Karen Knight, email kknight@cmcherald.com.

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