BREWER, Maine — A Juneteenth ceremony commemorating the end of slavery in the United States is scheduled for noon Friday at the Joshua Chamberlain Freedom Park, which is home to the Underground Railroad statue.
Juneteenth, a holiday recognized by 31 states, marks the official end of slavery on June 19, 1865, the day Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the South had surrendered two months earlier, ending the Civil War, and that the slaves in that area were free.
“It took 2½ years years to actually free the slaves in America,” event organizer James Varner said in a press release about the event. “Thus, June 19th has become a holiday honoring the freeing of all slaves in America.”
While most people are under the impression that President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which was signed on Jan. 1, 1863, marked the end of slavery, it only freed slaves in areas of rebellion, but allowed slavery to continue in other states, including Texas.
Slavery was finally abolished when the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was enacted on Dec. 6, 1865, nearly three years later.
The Rev. Becky Gunn of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor will deliver the invocation on Friday, and Brewer Mayor Joseph Ferris is scheduled to attend.
The holiday, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, has been celebrated at Freedom Park in Brewer for six years and this year will feature a short meeting of the Maine Human Rights Coalition Inc., which Varner founded four years ago and is hosting the gathering.
The commemoration also will include placing a wreath on the base of a statue of Chamberlain and of a slave emerging from an Underground Railroad tunnel. Some in the area have contended that the Underground Railroad, a network of escape routes for slaves seeking freedom, extended to Brewer, but no evidence of that has been confirmed.
The Joshua Chamberlain Freedom Park is located on the corner of North Main Street and State Street.