Coastal Georgia celebrates Juneteenth

Members of Eleven Black Men of Liberty County, Inc. work raffle ticket sales at Hinesville's Juneteenth celebration, June 15, 2024. (Photo Courtesy of Robin Kemp/The Current GA)

Credit: Robin Kemp

Credit: Robin Kemp

Members of Eleven Black Men of Liberty County, Inc. work raffle ticket sales at Hinesville's Juneteenth celebration, June 15, 2024. (Photo Courtesy of Robin Kemp/The Current GA)

This story was originally published by The Current GA.

Wednesday brings the Juneteenth holiday, but celebrations have already started from Woodbine to Sapelo to Savannah and Tybee and Port Wentworth. It’s not too late to join wherever you are on the coast.

Tybee Island hosts a 2-day festival followed by the annual Wade-In at 9 a.m. Wednesday. In Liberty County, on Wednesday, the Susie King Taylor Museum will open its doors for free admission on Juneteenth, 11 a.m. to 2 p. m. The museum is located at the Liberty County Historical Society, 100 S. Commerce Street in downtown Hinesville. Woodbine holds its Juneteenth Jubilee from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday at Cornelia Jackson Memorial Park, 201 15th St.

If you miss the day’s celebrations, Port Wentworth has you covered: It continues the festival spirit from 5-9 p.m. Friday, June 21, at Port Wentworth City Hall, 7224 GA 21.

Liberty County

Before dawn on June 15, dozens of people started walking from Riceboro’s Briar Bay Park to Dorchester Academy in Midway, Georgia. The annual fundraising event commemorates the 9.2-mile distance many Black students in Liberty County had to walk to get an education during Reconstruction and Georgia’s Jim Crow years.

The walk was part of a dynamic series of events across Liberty County, Coastal Georgia’s only majority minority county, to commemorate the Juneteenth holiday.

In 1866, formerly enslaved Freedman’s Bureau and Reconstruction legislator William A. Golding founded the Homestead School to educate Black residents. He asked the American Missionary Association to send teachers to help, donated an acre of land for the school, and later got ongoing help from the Congregational Church. In 1878, the school was renamed Dorchester Academy.

While the school has been closed since 1940, Dorchester Academy remains an important gathering place for civil rights activists. In the mid-20th Century, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Young, and other Civil Rights leaders ran the “Citizenship Academy,” teaching Black activists from across the South about voting rights and sending them home to teach others.

In the Saturday morning heat, several people walking to the school got overheated, and shuttles picked up those too tired or hot to continue.

District 5 Commissioner Gary Gilliard and neighbor David Leslie John, both 68, finished the walk in 2.5 hours.

Catina Anderson, who completed the walk, reflected on the students who had to walk miles to and from school to get an education.


At Hinesville’s Juneteenth celebration in Bryant Commons Park, beekeepers Quentin Jones, 11, and Tamarus Jones, 12, showed off a demonstration hive and sold honey at their booth, as sister Chloe Jones, 2, grinned and waved from her stroller. A couple of years ago, the brothers wanted to take part in the Liberty County Children’s Business Fair and their dad suggested they try beekeeping. Three Smart Bees is based in Liberty County and cares for several hives, each of which produces 60 to 90 pounds of honey.

Free blood pressure and blood sugar tests, offered by the community health group Quad-E Organization, gave festival-goers a chance to learn ways to control or avoid serious conditions like diabetes. In 2021 in Liberty County, as many as 15,8% of adults over 20 had diabetes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Black Americans are disproportionately at risk for diabetes, which can set off many other health problems.

Nearby, a group of teenage boys with The Eleven Black Men of Liberty County, Inc., sold raffle tickets. The mentorship group also does volunteer work, helping the Manna House food pantry and adopting Button Gwinnett Elementary and Snelson-Golden Middle School.

Manning the table was Shyee Golden,12, a rising sixth grader at Midway Middle School, selling raffle tickets. He wasn’t sure what Juneteenth was about. When he learned the story, he thought for a minute, then said, “Cool.”

The group’ vice-president, Flournoy Tyson, said the participation of so many young adults in the activities are part of a goal to raise a new generation of civic activists.

“These kids, I’m trying to get them to talk to people, hear them speak and stuff,” he said. “If they start now, by the time they get to eleventh grade, it’ll be easy.”

The group, run by older adults, is seeking mentors under 40 to carry on its legacy.


Black cultural performers, artists and academics headlined the fourth annual Juneteenth commemoration at Georgia Southern University’s Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Center on Saturday.

Dozens gathered for the three-hour event at the new center — opened a year ago to celebrate and preserve Gullah Geechee culture — to appreciate performances by the Sankofa dancers and the Gullah Geechee Ring Shouters. The university’s own Call Me MiSter Program, which aims to increase diversity among Georgia’s teachers, also presented folktales. Author and professor of African American Studies Dr. Daniel Black delivered a speech.

While Saturday’s Juneteenth commemoration ended at 2 p.m., Dr. Maxine Bryant, director of both the Center for Africana Studies and the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Center, said the center is dedicated to uplifting the Gullah Geechee culture year-round through research and programming.

“So we’re not just preaching what we’re living, but living what we’re preaching,” Dr. Bryant said.

The Gullah Geechee people are descendants of enslaved Africans from the coastal South. The center celebrates and preserves the community’s distinct language — Gullah, a mix of Creole and African dialects — and cultural practices including quilting, knitting fishing nets, and basket-making. Notably, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is a member of the Pin Point Gullah Geechee community.

The commemoration showcased these intricate, handmade Gullah Geechee baskets crafted at a workshop.

Past the main atrium where the performances were held, vendors sold art, beauty products, and jewelry. Sabreee, of Sabreee’s Gullah Art Gallery, laid out her colorful multimedia paintings: one displayed a Gullah Geechee family picnicking on a quilt beneath wiry Spanish moss. Another vendor advertised custom-made poetry paired with historical prints.

Lea Miller’s painted wood earrings have been at the Gullah Geechee Heritage Center’s Juneteenth commemoration for three years. She said she appreciates the event’s diverse crowd and returning customers. For inspiration, Miller taps into African symbols.

“With these earrings, not just today, but every day…we can take a little bit of our culture and heritage with us,” Miller said.

Credit: The Current GA

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Credit: The Current GA


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