Junteenth unites Georgetown in celebration of freedom

GEORGETOWN – A Texas-sized celebration in the heart of Sussex County marking the proclamation to end of slavery in America took centerstage in Georgetown Saturday.

The annual Junteenth Celebration at the historic Richard Allen School grounds united community members, elected officials, fire and police personnel and sponsors for a day of entertainment, dance, food, vendors, games, health screenings, information on public safety and senior services, school tours and more.

Festivities kicked off with a gala parade that made a half-sweep around The Circle and continued down South Railroad Avenue to the Richard Allen School property.

Georgetown’s Junteenth celebration and countless others across America commemorate the June 19, 1865 announcement of the abolition of slavery in the United States and the state of Texas.

“It ties back to 1863 with Emancipation Proclamation,” said Paula Roberts of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc./Sussex Alumnae Chapter, among the Junteenth sponsors.
“Well, the issue, as far south as Texas, the word did not spread to all the folks that needed to know. It was actually two years later before the people of Galveston got the word. Then they started the celebrations. And the celebrations have carried on and continued since then.”
Junteenth today celebrates African American freedom and achievement, while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures.
Georgetown Mayor Bill West presented a proclamation and offered a personal observation.

“As I walk around, I see a lot of smiling faces and that’s what it’s about. This is a day to rejoice, a day to recognize what the ancestors went through, and to become one,” Mayor West said. “If we put all the little things aside, we can come together as one and be a better nation. That’s what I would love to see. Let’s respect one another, and let’s treat one another the way we would want to be treated.”

Dancing at Junteenth

Georgetown’s Richard Allen School bears the name of the freed slave, important figure in the United States abolitionist movement and the first bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in the late 18th century. The school has been recognized with a state historical marker.

During segregation, the Richard Allen School was part of a town within a town, serving as a hub within the African American community. Businesses in this part of Georgetown – hotel, dry-cleaner, barber shop, bar, restaurant, grocery store and five and dime — from the railroad tracks down to the airport were self-sufficient.

“It’s our history,” said Jane Hovington, president of the Richard Allen Coalition. “If there is one thing that we need to make sure people are aware of, it’s our history.
“We have people here today who can share the history of this community, because there is a lot. It resounds with history. We’re so proud of this particular area.”

Ms. Hovington has been invited to Legislative Hall in Dover on June 19 for an official tribute proclamation from State Rep. Ruth Briggs King of Georgetown. Rep. Briggs King attended Saturday’s event.

“This keeps getting bigger and better every year. I just wanted to say congratulations for the celebration,” said Rep. Briggs King. “On a personal note, my grandfather’s grandfather was a captain in the Union Army. Delaware did not go one way or the other during the Civil War. He fought in the Battle of Gettysburg and a few other battles.

“So, the Junteenth celebration is special because it reconnects me to my family’s commitment to freedom, as does my Methodist roots. One of the reasons the state of Delaware was not a slave state and did not go one way or the other was because of the strong Methodist roots, which did not believe in and did not support slavery.”

Georgetown’s fire and police departments were part of the parade and the celebration.

“We are trying to do things differently here in Georgetown and that’s OK, because … when we acknowledge that things occurred in the past that were not good when can then start to move forward,” said Georgetown Police Chief R.L. Hughes. “I am very fortunate to be the police chief and I intend to use my position to do things differently. We are all going to work together and be engaged and have a better community.”

Junteenth in Georgetown was sponsored by the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc./Sussex Alumnae Chapter, the Richard Allen Coalition, Everlasting Hope Ministries, Restoration Worship Center and the Buffalo Soldiers.

“As we’ve mentioned there is some significance here on the grounds of the Richard Allen School that has so much history here in Georgetown. We picked this area that had a lot of historic value,” said Ms. Roberts.

“So, it’s about freedom, celebration, and for us it’s like a day of reflection as well, to just take a minute to think back to what those people experienced back at that time.”

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