Many people consider April 9, 1865 to be the end of the Civil War, since that’s the day General Robert E. Lee surrendered his 28,000 troops to General Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Courthouse. In reality, though, the news didn’t reach all of the Confederate soldiers or their commanders until June 19th of that year – when Major General Gordon Granger and his troops landed at Galveston, Texas to announce the ending of the war and to enforce the freeing of all slaves.
That date – June 19, 1865 – is considered to be Juneteenth, the oldest celebration of the emancipation of slaves in the United States. And, although it is a lesser known celebration, it’s an important commemoration, and you can participate in a Juneteenth festival at the Jepson Center, part of the Telfair Museums, on June 11th from 1 to 4 p.m. Free and open to all, highlights of this celebration include:
- “live performances and hands-on art activities for all ages, celebrating Savannah’s history and Gullah Geechee heritage”
- “an interactive performance by Jamal Toure and other local storytellers”
- “demonstrations by traditional artists throughout the region”
- children’s crafts and artmaking projects
- “live concert by reunited members of the Gospelaires, a legendary a cappella vocal group from Pin Point, offering a rare treat to the celebration”
More about Early Juneteenth Celebrations
According to Juneteenth.com, when slaves heard the “profound news” that they were freed, reactions “ranged from pure shock to immediate jubilation.” Some “lingered” with their former masters, now employers, while others left before the news was “completely off the lips of their former ‘masters.’” Some headed to the North, while others sought to reconnect with family members scattered around the country. In some of the earliest Juneteenth celebrations, former slaves focused on supporting one another in their new lives, praying together and continuing to search for family members.
Certain foods became associated with Juneteenth, ranging from barbecue to strawberry soda pop to lamb, pork and beef, with activities including baseball, rodeos and fishing. Participants often dressed well in contrast to the ragged clothing often worn during the slavery years. In modern times, this celebration is resurging, with the Smithsonian, the Henry Ford Museum and more sponsoring events.
Tickets for Savannah Attractions, Including Telfair Museums
You can now get your tickets for the Telfair Museums right here at Cool Savannah Tours & Gifts, at the same place you get tickets for our Savannah sightseeing tours (walking, carriage or trolley, private or public). We make it easy and convenient for you to schedule your sightseeing plans in historic Savannah.
The Telfair 3-site pass is good for the Jepson Center, the Telfair Academy and the Owens-Thomas House, and is valid for one week from time of purchase. Tickets are currently available for purchase at our store and will soon be available for purchase online.
We look forward to seeing you!