Juneteenth Freedom Celebration planned in Hannibal

Phyllis Dean, who led the Canton Lincoln School Restoration Project, will make a presentation at Jim's Journey in Hannibal at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 22, during Juneteenth events.
By Faye Dant, founder and director of Jim's Journey: The Huck Finn Freedom Center
Posted: Jun. 14, 2019 5:12 pm

"Lift us Up" is the theme of the Bicentennial 23rd Annual Juneteenth Freedom Celebration in Hannibal.

One event, "​We Stand United," will begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 18, at the Mark Twain Museum gallery. It is sponsored by the Hannibal Free Public Library. This will be presented by a puppetry group founded by Marsha Mayfield. Juneteenth commemorates African American history, and this event is for all the family.

A film featuring Rev. Dr. William Barber, "​Jesus Fought Injustice, He Did Not Join It," from his Moral Movement​​ series will be screened at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 19, at Willow Street Christian Church, sponsored by​ Jim's Journey: The Huck Finn Freedom Center.

Jim's Journey will sponsor the food vendor for the Mark Twain Museum's Music Under The Stars concert 7 p.m. Thursday, June 20, at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home Mall on ​Hill Street.

Phyllis Dean, who led the Canton Lincoln School Restoration Project, will make a presentation 1 p.m. Saturday, June 22, at Jim's Journey: The Huck Finn Freedom Center at 509 N. Third St.

Many African American communities are planning Juneteenth Freedom Day or Emancipation Day celebrations. Juneteenth is the African American Independence Day, a symbolic holiday which begun in Texas and commemorates freedom. Celebrations will include parades, family reunions, concerts, barbecues and picnics which emphasize education and cultural achievement.

Missouri's Jan. 21, 1865, Emancipation Proclamation Ordinance ended legalized domestic slavery in Missouri. About 180,000 African Americans served the Union Army and won their freedom. Hannibal’s oldest city cemetery, Old Baptist, has a half dozen tombstones of USCT Civil War Veterans.

To avoid compliance with the Emancipation Proclamation, tens of thousands of slaveholders fled with their slaves to Texas, America's last frontier. These slavers and the enslaved became part of a system known as “refugeeing." Historians estimate that between 50,000 and 150,000 slaves were retained in this way from 1863 to 1865.

Daniel Quarles, the prototype for Jim in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, lost his son, Harre Quarles, to refugeeing. Visit Jim’s Journey to learn Harre's story which is included in the 1936 ​Texas Slave Narratives.​ The 96-year old Mr. Quarles tells of being gifted, traded, bought and sold in an effort to retain him by moving him from Missouri to Texas where he lived and died.

Like in Texas, Missouri ​slaves ​did not receive the freedom news until much later. The first weekend in August became the celebrated Emancipation Day. In Hannibal, it was often celebrated on the grounds of the Masonic Home.

Melvin Dant (Faye Dant’s father-in-law) told many stories of those times. Born in 1909, he remembered his parents and grandparents born in "slavery times." He spoke of attending many Emancipation Day picnics held throughout the countryside. He remembered the baseball games, music, fish sandwiches, fried pies and mugs of cold beer.

While many communities in Missouri still celebrate the August Emancipation Day, locals have chosen to celebrate the nationally recognized June 19 Juneteenth. Many community-minded people are to thank, including Marsha Mayfield and the PYRFEECT organization for creating the first Juneteenth celebration in 1997.

The 23rd annual Juneteenth Freedom Celebration, “Lift Us Up” will be quite an affair this Bicentennial year. Jim's Journey and the Juneteenth Celebration Committee is collaborating with the Missouri State Museum, the Hannibal Free Public Library, the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, Douglass Community Services, and the Willow Street Christian Church to make all events free.

The month-long celebration opened June 1 with a display from the Missouri State Museum's newest traveling exhibit, "Boom! The Rise and Fall of Missouri's Black Business Districts" at Jim's Journey through June 30, 2019. This exhibit interprets the history of five Black business districts throughout the state: The Foot in Jefferson City; The Wedge in Hannibal; The Sharp End in Columbia; Vine Street in Kansas City, and the Ville in St. Louis. Due to segregation, overt and institutional racism, such business centers served as a cornerstone of Black life, culture, and survival in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The local exhibit highlights the people who influenced the growth and development of some of Hannibal's most prolific and enterprising men and women.

The 2019 Juneteenth will close with a presentation by Darrell and Phyllis Dean. They will share with us how a grassroots effort turned an abandoned colored schoolhouse into a history museum. They led the Canton Lincoln School Restoration Project, unveiled recently. Jim's Journey will host the event at 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 22.

Jim's Journey highlights the courage and accomplishments of local African Americans by giving dignity to these nameless, invisible ancestors who endured so much to help build this community. Museum tours are given Thursday, Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday 1-5 p.m.

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