Community leaders came together in downtown Jacksonville over the weekend to celebrate the end of slavery, and dedicate a new addition to the square.
The Jacksonville Chapter of the NAACP hosted the annual Jacksonville Juneteenth Celebration Saturday at the Central Park Plaza. The annual celebration commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19th, 1865, Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston Texas with news the war had ended and that the enslaved people there were free.
The observance of Juneteenth became an official state and national holiday last year.
The event Saturday kicked off with an opening ceremony along with the dedication and ribbon cutting of the downtown’s newest mural honoring Dr. Alonzo Kinniebrew.
Kinniebrew was the first African American in the United States to open a surgical hospital, which was located in Jacksonville from 1909 to 1927. This year marked the first time the annual event was held downtown.
Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard presented a proclamation for Juneteenth during the ceremony. Afterward, Mayor said the event continued a now lengthy tradition of partnering with the local NAACP in honoring the day.
“Years ago Alderman Tony Williams and a number of us did the Juneteenth out at Community Park. But we have a strong Central Park and it’s fitting to have it here with Dr. Kinniebrew’s mural up here and Juneteenth. It’s all coming into place and a lot of good people put in a lot of effort on this. We need to recognize our history, and we are glad to be a part of it today.”
Following the ceremony, visitors were treated to a host of vendors, and attractions along with a performance by Jacksonville’s own Robert Sampson.
Jacksonville NAACP Chapter President Polly Williams said she was thrilled the Dr. Kinniebrew mural was finished and installed in time for the celebration. “I’m feeling very happy that we got it done in time and I’d like to thank all the community that came together. I think we had a really good turnout.”
Williams went on to say “I am so proud that everybody got together to do this and I hope we continue it because this means that the community is working together, all races and all creeds.”