Celebrating Freedom: Vicksburg’s Juneteenth Heritage Festival set for June 17

Published 1:25 pm Monday, May 15, 2023

The Vicksburg Juneteenth Heritage Festival Committee will host its Annual Juneteenth Heritage Festival on June 17 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Halls Ferry Park, 130 Halls Ferry Park Road.

This year’s theme is “Celebrating Freedom.”  

The committee is planning an enlightening festival for the entire family. Young and old will learn the history of Juneteenth and its importance. Children’s activities will include jump rope, a three-legged race, volleyball, kickball, etc.

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Gospel entertainers will include Jerome Williams and the Christian Harmonizers, Ola Jones Clark and Nathaniel Williams. Slated R&B artists are Time to Move Band,  Deatra Robinson Cable and Kevin Reynolds (Tulsa, Okla.). Blues headliners will include Blues  Experience, Teresa McBride and Terrell Davis.

DJs featured throughout the day are DJ Calcutta, DJ  Country Que and DJ Buck Nasty. Poetry contestants will be presented and the first, second and third-place winners announced. Numerous vendors will be on hand to sell their arts, crafts, and a variety of food. Admission to this event is free.

Vicksburg’s first Juneteenth Heritage Festival, chaired by Mr. Tillman Whitley, occurred on June 19, 1993, on Monroe Street. Six years later, on June 19, 1999, spearheaded by Mrs. Ezell Matthews McDonald, a local businesswoman who focused on African American culture, history and traditions, the second Juneteenth Celebration was held in Marcus Bottom. Since the 1999 Festival, for the past 22 years, Juneteenth has been celebrated in Vicksburg at various churches and locations.  

On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. Juneteenth came about as the Civil  War came to a close in 1865. A number of people remained enslaved, especially in remote areas.   

Word of slavery’s end traveled slowly, and for those who were largely isolated from Union armies, life continued as if freedom did not exist. This was especially the case in Texas, where thousands of slaves were not made aware of freedom until June 19, 1865, when Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in  Galveston and issued an order officially freeing them. Their celebration would serve as the basis of June  19 — or Juneteenth — a holiday celebrating emancipation in the United States.  

Points of contact are the Chair, Bobbie Bingham Morrow, 601-630-5847, and Co-Chair Traniece King, 601-415-2921. Those wishing to communicate via email are asked to contact vicksburgjuneteenth@yahoo.com.