Chestertown’s Juneteenth Celebration at Sumner Hall – June 18, 2016

June 19, 2016

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. The holiday began in Galveston, Texas in 1866 marking the first year anniversary of Major General Gordon Granger landing at Galveston with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free, over two years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. More on the history if Juneteenth can be learned at

In Chestertown, Maryland Sumner Hall conducted a Juneteenth Celebration. Along with a wreath laying at the monument in Memorial Park honoring the African-American soldiers from Kent County who fought in the Civil War it was a day of Live Music, Gospel and Jazz.

Sumner Hall is one of only two African-American Grand Army of the Republic Posts still remaining in the United States. After years of neglect the hall was purchased, renovated and is now used as a museum, community center, performance space, and gallery. The hall completed a renovation and had their official opening celebration two years ago during Juneteenth. After the grand opening they decided to continue with a Juneteenth celebration each year. So even though this is the third year for the celebration it is officially the 2nd Annual Juneteenth Celebration.

The celebration began with the arrival of the Buffalo Soldiers Moto Cycle Club, MC, Troup 1, Delaware. The club honors the contribution of the Buffalo Soldiers, the first African-American peacetime regiments of the US Army which served from 1886 when enacted by congress until 1948 when President Truman issued an Executive Order that integrated the US armed forces.

Being lead by drummers from the Kent County Middle School Band, under the direction of Band teacher Leon Frison, the Buffalo Soldiers Cavalry Scouts matched from Sumner Hall to Memorial Park in Chestertown to lay a wreath at the monument for Kent County’s African- American Soldiers who fought in the Civil War.

Upon return back to Sumner Hall it was time to officially open the festivities beginning with the reading of a Proclamation from the Town of Chestertown, read by Council Member Linda Kuiper, honoring Juneteenth and recognition of the Board, Friends and Volunteers of the Sumner Hall.

This was followed with a short speech by Cameron McCoy, a recent graduate of Easton High School where he was SGA President and has been honored for academic achievement as Maryland Scholar and Scholar with Distinction. His speech empathized that there is still much hate in the US and in the world. We should think of these recent attacks (Orlando, South Caroline etc) were done by a “lost man fueled by hate.” And when hate comes knocking at your door, how will you answer it?

The rest of the day was filled with music; Gospel with Pilgrim Travelers and the New Gospelites, smooth jazz with the Bratcher Project and even a little folk with Andre Sisco and his friend David Jones, and finally we went camping with an amazing tent we got from Survival Cooking.

All photos are by SG Atkinson and are available as a 4×6 print. Larger prints are also available. See the Photographs Use Rights for more details.

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