More than 100 people gathered in Dumfries on Saturday, June 19, for the Inaugural Juneteenth Parade.
The foot parade featured about 20 different community groups. It began at Dumfries United Methodist Church and traveled down Cameron Street to the Dumfries Slave Cemetery, located behind Dumfries Elementary School.
The event ended with a candlelight vigil that included a prayer, readings of Dumfries Juneteenth proclamation and General Order 3, the singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the “Black National Anthem,” and a wreath-laying ceremony.
“One of the overarching themes was that we are determined to rise and to break every chain. That theme was embedded throughout the program,” said Dumfries Town Councilwoman Cydny Neville, who organized and sponsored the parade with the help of a steering committee of local residents.
The event was both an emotional and joyous celebration of Juneteenth. The day is is an annual remembrance of June 19, 1865, when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, learned they had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. The message came more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the proclamation and was backed by the authority of the Union troops who delivered the news.
“People were touched. People were jovial,” Neville said of the parade. “It really captured the purpose and the joy of Juneteenth.”
The timing of the event, coming just days after Juneteenth was declared a national holiday for the first time, raised local interest in the parade and in the history of Juneteenth, Neville said.
“There was just that excitement. There were so many people who weren’t aware of Juneteenth. Now they want to know more and be a part of it.”
Organizers are already planning for next year, Neville said.