LSU-Alexandria held its second annual Juneteenth Celebration Thursday, June 15. The event was attended by a capacity crowd of over 150 LSUA faculty & staff members and a large contingent of young people from TRIO Programs in Natchitoches, Sabine and Alexandria. Juneteenth celebrates the landing of Union troops in Galveston, TX on June 19, 1865 that gave force to the Emancipation Proclamation after the collapse of the Confederacy. General Gordon Granger issued General Order # 3, informing Texas that:
“The people are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them, become that between employer and hired labor…”
The program presented the background of the holiday as well as a unity pledge from LSUA’s Homecoming Queen, Ms. Zoria Sewell, and talks from coach Dimario Jackson, Dr. Cynthia Thomas and Ms. Connie Cooper. There was also a presentation on the life of Solomon Northrup, a free born Black man from New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana for 12 years before finally being able to obtain his freedom and return home. Northrup spent almost the entirety of that time in and around Avoyelles Parish.
The highlight of the day was the Freedom Walk from the student union to the Epps House. The Epps house was owned by Edwin Epps who held Solomon Northrup in bondage for almost ten years on his plantation in Avoyelles parish until his eventual return to freedom in 1853. The house was originally in Bayou Boeuf near Holmesville and was moved to the LSUA campus in 1999 and restored. There was a brief ceremony and a wreath laying in honor of Solomon Northrup’s legacy after which the visiting students ate lunch and were treated to a showing of the film “The Learning Tree”, directed by the trail blazing African-American director and photographer Gordon Parks.