BERRYVILLE — Several local organizations are coming together to organize a Juneteenth celebration at the Clarke County Ruritan Fairgrounds next year.

Juneteenth is a federal holiday created earlier this year by Congress commemorating the emancipation of slaves and celebrating African-American culture. It will be observed on June 20 next year. However, the local celebration will be on June 18, which is a Saturday, according to Chairwoman Alverna White.

Organizing the event are the Josephine School Community Museum, Josephine Improvement Association (JIA) and Clarke County Training School & Johnson-Williams High School Reunion Association. All are nonprofit organizations.

Built in the late 1800s, the Josephine City School on Josephine Street in Berryville originally educated Black students before integration. The museum that the building now houses is dedicated to preserving and sharing the history and heritage of the county’s African-American residents, according to its website. It’s part of the Josephine City Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The JIA was established in the 1960s to obtain public water/sewer service, street lights, sidewalks and garbage collection for the neighborhood before Berryville annexed it in the 1980s.

The former training and high schools also educated Black students.

“We want to do a big celebration” of Juneteenth, White said of the organizers.

“It will be a day of culture, education and fun,” she said, with activities for both children and adults.

The organizers are seeking “anyone wanting to make a contribution” to the celebration, White continued. That includes sponsors, educators, historians, entertainers and vendors.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, two months after the Confederacy surrendered and about 2½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the Southern states.

“Juneteenth, to a lot of African Americans, is considered our Independence Day,” said White. The time of the year that it’s observed is “when we realized that all African Americans were free.”

Ultimately, she said, she hopes Juneteenth enables Americans to learn from mistakes of the past and continue developing communities inclusive of people of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Anyone interested in participating in next year’s celebration should call White at 703-791-3196.

— Contact Mickey Powell at mpowell@winchesterstar.com

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