Whitehall commemorates Juneteenth with celebration

Published 6:00 pm Friday, June 21, 2024

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In Whitehall, citizens gathered together on Saturday, June 15, for a Juneteenth celebration complete with vendors and informational tables where attendees were able to learn more about the holiday. 

Juneteenth, short for June Nineteenth, is celebrated to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S. 

“This is a new holiday. There are people who are uneducated about this new holiday and what it means,” said Teresa Nettles, event director for the celebration. “Just as you celebrate July 4, which is the independence for America, Juneteenth is independence for black people, black slaves. So, it’s Independence Day for them.” 

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Nettles and others gathered together to celebrate Juneteenth in Lowndes County and created the inaugural Juneteenth Celebration event. Organizers behind the event wanted to allow children to learn about Juneteenth and Whitehall’s impact during the civil rights movement. 

At the celebration, attendees could visit different tables to learn more about the emphasis and the civil rights movement. 

“We know [about it] because we grew up learning it as children, but now we don’t have anyone to teach our kids,” said Sharon Thomas, one of the organizers for the Juneteenth Celebration. “We are the elders, so we need to incorporate and teach the history so they can actually carry that on to the next generation as well.”

At one table, the National Park Service passed out informational booklets on the Selma to Montgomery March trail, holiday coloring pages for children and paper fans with Juneteenth information printed on either side.  

At the celebration, different tables were scattered on site, with some vendors selling handmade goods and slushies, while others provided more information and necessities for attendees. 

There were also events scattered throughout the celebration, such as a Juneteenth-themed bingo game, face painting and more. 

“I’m still excited, this is new for the community,” Nettles said. “We’re hopeful and we’re excited about the people that are here.” 

After the event, Nettles and others said they are looking forward to the future, and expect to continue this celebration into next year, with plans to make it bigger and better than before and to put Whitehall on the “civil rights map.” 

“One of the things growing up in this county [is that] we didn’t know how pivotal the county was in the civil rights movement,” Nettles said. “We decided that we wanted the county to be celebrated, we wanted Whitehall to be placed on the map because it’s a historic area.”