Macon residents share thoughts on what Juneteenth means to them

Tattnall Square Park was full of vendors, music, family and good conversations at Macon’s 27th annual Juneteenth Freedom Festival.

Juneteenth celebrates the ending of slavery in the United States. Gen. Gordon Ranger, accompanied by Union troops, traveled to Galveston, Texas, and on June 19, 1865, Ranger read a proclamation declaring that the Civil War had ended and that all slaves were free.

The Saturday festival included a history exhibit with black Union soldier re-enactments, musical performances, dance, special tributes, comedy, poetry and food and arts vendors.

What does Juneteenth mean for the Macon community? Eight residents shared their thoughts.

Louise Wilson of Macon Black Pages

“It means that we’re going to continue to have our history. To strive. Because I don’t want our history to die, so this is like history you may not see in the history books. This means that I’ll get a chance to tell my story. We can tell our story continuously, and they’ll know it’s not just a festival to buy clothes and eat food.”

Vinson Muhammad of Kwanzaa Cultural Access Center and Torchlight Academy

“Juneteenth means family. It means celebration. It means revolution. It means community. This is 27 years that we’ve been doing this. So it’s a legacy and institution that has been created in Macon, Middle Georgia.”

L.J. Malone, coordinator for Juneteenth and founder of Macon Peace

“Juneteenth means liberty. It means freedom. It means an opportunity for black people in America to come together and being able to pull ourselves up on our own bootstraps.”

Sarah Hunt, president of Middle Georgia National Action Network

“It’s a time of the year that we remember the freedom of (black) people. A lot of people don’t realize that this is a very important celebration. Even though it happened in Texas, it still affected us.”

Clifford Pierce, representing 54th Massuchusets Infantry Regiment re-enactment

“(We’re) here today to show the public what freedom really looks like. As we are soldiers and soldiers’ wives portraying the Civil War, we’d like to let the public take a look at what we’re doing, what we slept in ... but freedom is the main thing we want to point out.”

Robert Benks of Little Richard House Resource Center

“I’m definitely here because this is a momentous day that happened so long ago. It was something that allowed my ancestors to be free and able to do what it is that they wanted to do. No longer bound by slavery, anything like that. They were able to be free people. I find it robbery for me to not celebrate that.”

Myles Hobbard of the Bibb County school district

“It means many things. Separation. Empowerment. History. Culture. ... (My mother) educated me throughout childhood to look at the history of Juneteenth. ... Macon, Georgia, had to surrender, because they still had slaves in Tattnall Square Park. Right here is where there were slaves, and they became liberated and became free. This place has a lot of historical connections.

Lonnie Davis, cultural resource specialist for Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park

“Personally, one of these men that were fighting for their freedom was actually my great-great-great-grandfather. So personally, I had ancestors fighting for their freedom for us to be able to do this.”

Anisah Muhammad is an intern reporter at The Telegraph, a journalism major at Mercer University, a self-published author, a spoken word poet and the co-founder of an online magazine.