On Second Thought for Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The history of Juneteenth goes like this: President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. But two years later, on June 19, 1865, slaves in Texas finally got the news that they were free. Now Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. However, many people have never heard of the holiday or even celebrate it. Historian and storyteller Lillian Grant Baptiste joined us from Savannah to give the history of Juneteenth and why people should celebrate the holiday.


African-American history goes far beyond Black History Month in February. Today we talked about the presentation of history and how it’s changing and confronting new layers of truth. Recently, several museums and African-American exhibits have been built around the country. These new historical landmarks help create conversations about current social issues and America’s ugly past. We spoke with Savannah-based community organizer Amanda Hollowell and Nicole Moore, manager of education and museum content at the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta.

On Second Thought producer Sean Powers visited the Juneteenth celebration at Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta in 2016. Groups of all ages were invited to tour the cemetery's historic African-American gravesites. Many of them were still unmarked, but Oakland Cemetery staff has made headway in the identification efforts.

Just before the Civil War, hundreds of enslaved people were brought to Savannah from the Butler Plantations in South Georgia to be sold. During a two-day period, more than 400 people were sold to slave owners from across the Southeast, in the largest recorded slave auction in the United States. It is known as the Weeping Time. GPB Special Correspondent Celeste Headlee met a historian who has made it his mission to identify descendants of this massive slave auction.

Last weekend, the annual Juneteenth Festival was held at Mozley Park in Atlanta. On Second Thought producer Summer Evans shared sounds from the event.