Juneteenth Celebration at African Burial Ground

Juneteenth Celebration at African Burial Ground
A very happy Douglas Massenburg of the National Park having author Illyasah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X, sign a copy of her children’s book “Malcomb Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X.”
Photo by Tequila Minsky

Douglas Massenburg of the National Park Service has been wanting to have Illyasah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X, speak as part of the African Burial Ground programming for a long time. This year, June 19, became that day. The date is also called Juneteenth, known as Emancipation Day, and is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.

On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the Civil War had ended. General Order No. 3 stated, “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

Commemorating the Civil Rights movement as part of the park’s annual Juneteenth celebration, Ms. Shabazz gave a powerful lecture about civil rights, sharing her personal experiences while growing up as the child of Malcolm X.

She emphasized the importance of knowing where one came from–one’s history. And, she was referring to the spectrum of Africans in the Diaspora and their history, Africa, slavery, historical moments and movements, and notable figures in African Diaspora history. Her father, Malcomb X is one of the great figures in American history.

Following the presentation, Ms. Shabazz responded to questions from the audience and then signed her latest children’s book “Malcomb Little: The Boy Who Grew Up To Become Malcolm X” that she authored, based on her father’s childhood.

The African Burial Ground is recognized as the oldest and largest known African cemetery excavated in North America. It extends for 6.6 acres, and it is estimated that approximately 15,000 enslaved and free Africans are buried within its boundaries. On Feb. 27, 2006, the African Burial Ground was designated a National Monument by Presidential Proclamation, making it the 390th national park site to be managed by the National Park Service, an agency of the United States Department of the Interior.

The national park site consists of an indoor visitor center and exhibition–at 290 Broadway–the Ted Weiss Federal Building, just blocks north of City Hall. The impressive outdoor memorial, designed by Haitian-American Rodney Leon, is east of the building and can be seen from Duane Street, but should be entered into to truly appreciate it. The hours of the outdoor memorial are Monday through Saturday, 9:00 – 5:00 p.m.

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