“I remember as if it were yesterday how my old grandmother used to jump up and down, clapping her hands and shouting: ‘Free Bells Done Ring! Free Bells Done Ring! De slavery chains done broke at last.’”
That was the recollection of Thomas C. Walker of Gloucester, born a slave, still a very young boy during the Civil War. Young as he was, not quite four when the war ended, his grandmother’s joy made an indelible impression and spoke for an estimated four million people, mostly in the South, enslaved and with no voice.
Friday brings the first official state observance of Juneteenth, a newly-adopted holiday affecting workers at the state and local levels. Juneteenth is a day of celebration marking the final notification to enslaved people, in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, of the end of slavery in the United States.
Long ago and far away it was, but the tide has changed enough that Virginia is now joining more than 40 other states in recognizing this day of joy.
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