It was 147 years ago on June 19th, 1865 that Union troops descended on Galveston, Texas, to take possession of the state and announce and enforce the emancipation of its slaves. Juneteenth is the holiday commemorating that day and the abolition of slavery in the United States. The day is an opportunity for people to celebrate freedom and equal rights, and last month, StoryCorps San Francisco was honored to join the celebration at Marin City, California’s annual Juneteenth Street Festival.
The commemoration began at First Missionary Baptist Church with a sermon, poetry readings, congregational singing, praise dancing, and a telling of the story of slavery’s abolition. (It wasn’t until two and a half years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation that emancipation was enforced throughout the states.) At First Missionary Baptist, the community gathered to remember and rejoice — and to acknowledge that there is still work to be done.
Following the service, the church doors opened to a street festival and music stage, perched high on one of Marin County’s idyllic rolling hills. StoryCorps San Francisco was there to provide a space for storytelling and a spot to sit down with friends and family to listen to some of the many stories we’ve recorded as part of our Griot Initiative, a national initiative to record the stories of African Americans.
Some of these stories included John Hope Franklin, the late scholar of African-American history, telling his son, John about being a Boy Scout during the 1920s, Mamie Todd telling her daughter, Ann Todd Jealous, and grandson, President and CEO of the NAACP Benjamin Todd Jealous, about demanding supplies from the white school superintendent while teaching at an all-black school in the 1930s, and James Thompson telling his younger brother, Dwight Thompson, about a childhood kiss that made Civil Rights history.