Drummers from Baile’s African Drum Works open last year’s Juneteenth event during the libation ceremony at the Montpelier Slave Cemetery.

James Madison’s Montpelier, the Orange County African American Historical Society (OCAAHS), and The Arts Center In Orange have partnered to create a virtual Juneteenth celebration. For the past four years, the event has been held at Montpelier; however, with the COVID-19 outbreak, the in-person event was cancelled.

“We really wish that we could have everyone onsite this year for this important celebration,” said Roy Young, Montpelier’s President and CEO. “However, I’m pleased that we are able to continue our partnerships with the Orange County African American Historical Society and The Arts Center In Orange and launch a website that will allow everyone to continue the celebration virtually, and throughout the month of June. We look forward to having people visit us when they can, and we are hopeful that we’ll be able to host the event here next year, as we have since 2016, with OCAAHS and The Arts Center.”

Montpelier, OCAAHS and The Arts Center have created a website featuring the performers, vendors, reenactors and historical information that make up the core of the Juneteenth celebration. The website allows visitors to learn about African-American history at Montpelier and throughout Orange County; celebrate Juneteenth by watching and interacting with performers, musicians, historical interpreters and artists; support local artists and businesses by buying from Juneteenth vendors; reunite with family, teammates, scouts and friends; and connect with local community groups. The website can be found at https://ocaahsjuneteenth.org/.

“We, the Orange County African American Historical Society, are excited about the virtual Juneteenth site,” said the Rev. Darryle Crump, OCAAHS President. “It is the result of a collaboration among The Arts Center In Orange, James Madison’s Montpelier, and OCAAHS. We sincerely hope that as you spend time at this website you will learn more about our local and national history and be inspired to share it with others.”

“The virtual Juneteenth celebration website is an important resource for people in Central Virginia looking to learn about local African-American history, support local African-American owned businesses, get involved with local organizations fighting racism and supporting the African- American community, and to celebrate African-American culture with local musicians, artists and performers. We hope that this website will spark important conversations about what the fight for freedom and its legacies look like here in Orange and around the country,” said Mary Furlong Minkoff, curator of archaeological collections at Montpelier and coordinator for the 2020 Juneteenth Celebration.

“Juneteenth has been an opportunity for former members of the regional Black Baseball League and Boy Scout Troop 111 to reunite at Montpelier,” said Bruce Monroe, organizer of the reunions. “It is a great time where old stories are shared and friendships are renewed.”

According to Anna Pillow, executive director of The Arts Center, “The Arts Center In Orange is pleased to work in partnership with the Orange County African American Historical Society and James Madison’s Montpelier on this year’s Juneteenth celebration. Although it is not possible to gather in person this year, we are all working together to ensure that this important day is celebrated online and on Main Street in Orange. This year, our shopfront window is home to a display of newspaper clippings and photographs from the archives of the OCAAHS. Our online programming includes a video highlighting the work of local artist and musician Darrell Rose as well as ‘Tracing Family Histories,’ a project about connecting the past to the present.”

Also as part of Juneteenth, Montpelier will host three virtual events: a book talk on June 18 with birder, naturalist and hunter-conservationist Dr. Drew Lanham, who will discuss his book “The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature” and his collection of poems from “Sparrow Envy” and elsewhere; a virtual walking tour on June 20 of sites of emancipation at Montpelier with Dr. Matthew Reeves, Montpelier’s director of archaeology and landscape restoration; and a book talk on June 25 with descendant, author and historian Dr. Bettye Kearse, who will discuss her book “The Other Madisons: The Lost History of a President’s Black Family.” To register for any of these events, visit either the Juneteenth website at https://ocaahsjuneteenth.org/celebrate/ or Montpelier’s website at https://www.montpelier.org/events.

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally-celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Marking the date that the last enslaved people learned of their freedom, the month of June and the 19th day were combined to form the term “Juneteenth.” From its Galveston, Texas, origin in 1865, observance of Juneteenth as African-American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and is an official holiday recognized in 46 States and the District of Columbia.

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