A steady rain forced the fourth annual “Junteenth Day” celebration this past June 19th to be held in the Brewer Auditorium instead of at the Chamberlain Freedom Park of Brewer, Maine as scheduled. This designated day celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, 2000 Union soldiers marched into Galveston, Texas at the end of the Civil War and enforced the tenets of the Emancipation Proclamation for the first time in the heart of the newly surrendered confederacy.
City of Brewer Mayor Arthur Verow read a proclamation recognizing the event, the spirit of self, and the long fight for freedom for African-Americans . He proclaimed June 19, 2009 as “Junteenth Day." In addition to Mayor Verow, State Representative Michael Celli, representatives from the offices of US Senator Olympia Snowe (Maine), US Senator Susan Collins (Maine), and US Congressional Representative Michael Michaud read statements praising the role of African-Americans in society and recognizing the tragedy of slavery as well as the importance of the “Underground Railway," a freedom trail for many slaves.
The keynote speaker was James Varner, president of the Maine Human Rights Coalition. He stated his goal was to get “Junteenth Day” officially recognized in the State of Maine as well as the nation noting that 31 states, along with the District of Columbia, had already done so. He spoke of the need to work diligently for the end of racism and discrimination in America.