ELIZABETH, NJ – Hundreds of members of Elizabeth’s African-American community crowded the Waterfront Pier and Marina June 19 to celebrate Juneteenth, the oldest commemoration of the end of slavery, an event observed nationally and internationally.
Explained Bonita Stevens, an event organizer and Union County Chapter leader for Organizing For Action, “Juneteenth began in the state of Texas on June 19, 1865 when it was officially proclaimed freedom for slaves in that state, two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was signed. This was the day, Juneteenth, that would forever commemorate African American Freedom, and to express that African Americans are a proud people with past, present, and future contributions to American society.”
The free event featured Kim Cornish, a descendent of Harriet Tubman, the Black Moses, who family discovered their connection about 20 years ago. Her family originated in Dorchester County, Maryland, where Tubman was a slave and later move to Auburn, New York, where Tubman lived after the Civil War. “We always knew we were on hallowed ground,” said Cornish. “Whether we were related or not, we couldn’t be any less proud.” Cornish now gives presentations about African-American history.
Tubman, known as the Black Moses, was born a slave and escaped to freedom. She then went back south to lead slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad, a series of safe houses. In 2020, she will be the first African American woman to grace U.S. paper currency.
The Federation of Black Cowboys also made a return visit to the city to give horse rides to children. An exhibition of African-American history was housed in a cruise ship, the Spirit of Freedom. The voyage from Slavery to Presidency, from the “Outhouse” to the “Whitehouse.”