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Nashvillians remember their enslaved ancestors ahead of Juneteenth holiday

Slavery in Nashville.jpeg
Posted at 4:32 PM, Jun 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-20 13:00:55-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Juneteenth celebrations are kicking off this weekend to commemorate the freedom of the last enslaved people in the country.

But historians said it's more than just a day on the calendar.

President Abraham Lincoln ordered the freeing of enslaved people with the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863.

Slaves in Tennessee weren't free until October 1864, but the last slaves in which were in Galveston, Texas, were freed on June 19, 1865.

"In 1779, slaves arrived with the founders of Nashville with the Donelson and Robertson party including some of my ancestors," said David Ewing, a historian.

Ewing carried a copy of the National Banner and Nashville Daily Advertiser — a nearly 190-year-old newspaper.

Inside the paper were advertisements from 1832 of enslaved people who have escaped.

The newspaper — like a downtown historical marker for the Nashville slave market — is a reminder that slavery existed in America.

"Before the Civil War, African Americans were bought and sold on a regular basis in this vicinity on town near Metro Courthouse," he said.

Ewing said slaves helped create the Nashville residents see today.

"Slavery has been a part of the city since its founding," Ewing said.

It's why the nation celebrates that freedom with the Juneteenth holiday. President Joe Biden made June 19 a federal holiday.

"Now, that Juneteenth is a national holiday, people will have a day off, but I hope they use that time to kind of learn more history about the enslaved community and dig into their family roots," Ewing said.

There are several chances to celebrate Juneteenth this weekend.

The National Museum of African American Music is hosting a block party at the Assembly Food Hall Skydeck.

It will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

You can expect live performances from artists of different genres.

Admission is free, but the event is 21 and over.

There will also be fireworks at Fort Negley. That celebration goes from 6 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. Sunday.