The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is joining nine museums and historical institutions to commemorate Juneteenth through BLKFREEDOM.org. The collaboration has produced a film documenting and exploring the deep-rooted anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” through the eyes of museums and anthropologists from across the United States. The film premieres at noon on June 15.
BLKFREEDOM.org commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas with news the Civil War had ended and the enslaved were now free. The date, now known as Juneteenth, came more than two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
“Juneteenth is a day of celebration, but it’s not a day of completion. It’s an affirmation that Black people are, and of right out to be, free. And it’s a reminder that we must dedicate ourselves to secure and protect those freedoms,” said Woodrow Keown, Jr., president & COO of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. “We are proud to partner with our friends across the country to inspire, educate and reexamine what freedom, justice and democracy mean in this country.”
The film will explore the historical influences on the evolution of the Black experience in America using the context of the national anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Streaming audiences globally will experience the pride of over 200 years of Gullah culture, the perseverance of Little Africa through Black Laws, tenacity through industry and pop culture in Detroit and resiliency through the COVID era. Additional performances will feature the African American Cultural Ensemble (ACE), West African Dance and poetry.
The Freedom Center’s portion of the video uses African drums, courtesy of the Gyata Afrakan Drum and Dance Theater, a spoken word performance and narration from Freedom Center historian Carl Westmoreland. It tells the story of Little Africa, a thriving free Black community on the banks of the Ohio River in the mid-1800s that endured Black laws that limited their freedoms and race riots that destroyed their homes and businesses. Little Africa was the gateway to freedom for countless freedom seekers escaping slavery. Today, the Freedom Center stands where Little Africa once thrived and continues to be a gateway to freedom.
BLKFREEDOM.org is a combined effort of the Freedom Center, America’s Black Holocaust Museum (Milwaukee), Amistad Research Center of Tulane University (New Orleans), August Wilson African American Cultural Center (Pittsburgh), California African American Museum (Los Angeles), Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (Detroit), Harvey Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture (Charlotte), Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park (Hilton Head Island, S.C.), National Civil Rights Museum (Memphis) and the Northwest African American Museum (Seattle).