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Juneteenth celebration returns to Huntington

Jun. 14, 2014 @ 11:00 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Most people know the Civil War didn't end at Appomattox in April 1865.

There were skirmishes and small battles well after the Confederacy surrendered to the Union.

But perhaps the most dramatic and important of these incidents was Union General Gordon Granger taking 2,000 troops to Galveston, Texas, after the Lonestar State refused to comply with the Emancipation Proclaimation that decreed an end to slavery in the United States.

On June 19, 1865, Granger read from a balcony "General Order No. 3," declaring all slaves in the state of Texas free.

That began a celebration from emancipated slaves that grew from a local, annual tradition to a national day of observance, known as Juneteenth.

On Saturday at the A.D. Lewis Community Center field in Huntington, Tim Meadows held a copy of General Order No. 3 in his hand.

In a few moments he would read it to all in attendance at Huntington's Juneteenth event.

"We are history," Meadows said. "As long as there are generations to come, they need to know the point they've arrived at and how they got there."

The Juneteenth celebration had been absent for the past few years, but A.D. Lewis Center director Maria Hill said it was important to bring the tradition back.

"This is probably one of the more important holidays for our culture," Hill said. "It's a family event where the parents can bring kids and they can play on the playground while the parents shop, get lunch and dinner. It's about bringing the whole community together."

There was plenty of music and entertainment on hand, and Huntington Mayor Steve Williams read a proclamation announcing Juneteenth Day in Huntington.

"I'm really proud that they've brought this back," Williams said. "I think they're going to be pleasantly surprised by the amount of people who end up coming here today. Once the music starts, I think you'll even get some people from the neighborhood just coming down to see what's going on.

"Maria and the board of directors really have the A.D. Lewis Center going in the right direction, and it's great to see."

Follow reporter Ben Fields on Twitter @BenFieldsHD.

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