From Staff Reports
The Southern Appalachian Labor School (SALS) will host its 22nd annual Juneteenth Solidarity Festival at the Historic Oak Hill School, 140 School Street, Oak Hill, on Saturday, June 15. The event will begin at 12 and feature music, a cruise-in car show, a used book sale, food, various informational booths, games, historical displays and more for the entire afternoon. Admission is free.
The performance schedule will be posted on Facebook (Southern Appalachian Labor School) or more information may be obtained by calling 304-465-4246 or 304-779-2772.
Returning after several years will be Jude Binder, well known at FestivALL and throughout West Virginia for interpretive masked dance, as well as Elaine Purkey, Nancy Clark and other well-known performers.
New this year will be the gigantic 1st Annual New River SALS Book Sale, coordinated by Jim Oxendale. Thousands of books have been donated and will be available for bargain prices. The book sale will be inside and open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Proceeds will benefit SALS in its various human needs programs.
Also on display will be fly-over photographs of mountaintop removal in Fayette County, tours of the renovated first floor area of the SALS Historic Oak Hill School and a silent auction of valuable items.
In addition to live music, games, crafts and food, the event will also feature a cruise-in car show, where a trophy will be given for the “Best in Show.” The Fayette County Humane Society will have dogs and cats available for adoption. There also will be a flea market, and any vendors are welcome at $20 each space.
Various information tables, such as Experience Works, will be set up around the campus. The newly-renovated Historic School Café dining room will be open for refreshments. The New River Community and Technical College will set up the House of Pressure that permits people to witness exactly where heating loss is located in winter, cooling loss occurs in the summer and how to change habits to lower heating and cooling bills. King Coal Chevrolet will display its Volt, a highly-acclaimed hybrid model. The campus playground will be available for children.
This is the 37th anniversary of service for SALS in Appalachia, West Virginia and the communities served. In addition, this event commemorates West Virginia’s 150th birthday, Parents Day and Juneteenth, which marks the day slaves learned of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
The birthday of West Virginia and the celebration of Juneteenth are highly inter-related. Soon after West Virginia was created, Union soldiers arrived at Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended and that the slaves had been freed. This was 2 1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation had little effect in Texas because of the lack of a Union military presence. There are several stories that attempt to explain the delay of receipt of this news. One report was that a messenger sent to deliver the proclamation was murdered. Another theory is that the news was withheld to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation.
The celebration of June 19 was called Juneteenth and grew with more participation from the slave’s descendants. The celebration was a time for banding together to honor ancestors, and for prayer and thanksgiving. Juneteenth is highly revered in Texas, with many descendants of former slaves making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date.
In the beginning, the white citizens of Texas took offense to the holiday and tried to block its occurrence. In the early years, little interest existed outside the African American community in participation in the celebration. Eventually, as African Americans became land owners, land was donated and dedicated for these festivities. On Jan. 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday in Texas.
Today, Juneteenth is enjoying a rapid growth in communities and organizations throughout the country. The Smithsonian, the Henry Ford Museum and others sponsor Juneteenth-centered activities. Juneteenth celebrates African American freedom and achievement, while encouraging self-development and respect for all cultures. The events of 1865 in Texas are not forgotten, and a national day of pride in our diversity has emerged.