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Local residents to celebrate freedom
Juneteenth event to be held all day Saturday to commemorate the ending of slavery in the United Stat
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While all Americans celebrate July 4, for many black Americans the celebration of Juneteenth holds even more meaning as it commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States.

Following Confederate General Robert E. Lee's surrender on April 9, 1865, word of the defeat spread through the rest of the Confederacy, but didn't reach Galveston, Texas until June 18 and 19, 1865, when, according to tradition, Union General Gordon Granger arrived with 2,000 troops and read an official order abolishing slavery.

The date became known as Juneteenth and became an official state holiday in Texas in 1890, and spread to 41 other states, including Georgia, over the next 121 years.

Though the celebration of the holiday has waxed and waned over the years, resident Terri James is determined this year to integrate the holiday in Covington's fabric by kicking off what she hopes will be an annual celebration.

James is organizing a celebration from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday at the Under the Stars banquet center, 672 Moore St., Oxford.

The day portion of the event will feature food and gift vendors, a bake and cook off, a yard sale and a variety of games, including the watermelon pass, horseshoes, basketball, bingo, miniature golf, ring toss, hula hoop and pick up the ducks," said co-organizer Gwen Green. All kids' games will cost 50 cents.

The main event will be the opening ceremony at 11 a.m., which will include Whitney Houston's rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner," the black national anthem "Life Every Voice and Sing," a performance dance by Green and a reading of Abraham Lincoln's third article from the Emancipation Proclamation.

Local nonprofit organizations Voters League of Newton County, the local NAACP chapter, the Newton County Democratic Party and Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority will have booths set up.

Rental space for booths or vendor spots costs $10.

The evening portion will be a Motown themed night from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. The Straight No Chaser Band, led by Pretty Boy Phat, will perform, along with local singers Jerry Hill and Kerry Cobb.

There will be dancing and food and drinks available as well, in addition to karaoke and other entertainment.

"I found about Juenteenth more than 20 years ago. My husband coming from New Orleans said it originated in Galveston, Texas and was the end of slavery. She gave me the history on it," said James, a native of Covington. "I've been trying to get it together for a number of years, but never been able to. This year I said I'm going to do it.

"I wanted to educate our people; it's something I feel that we need to do know. It will be a big celebration for all of us."

The organizers will have a memory banner for attendees to sign, and will give away handouts of "A Traditional Prayer" by the Rev. Wallace Evans. Green said she's hoping for a crowd of more than 500 people.

According to the website, the holiday "celebrates African-American freedom and achievement, while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures. As it takes on a more national, symbolic and even global perspective, the events of 1865 in Texas are not forgotten, for all of the roots tie back to this fertile soil from which a national day of pride is growing."