Juneteenth luncheon marks 150th anniversary celebration

Juneteenth luncheon marks 150th anniversary celebration
May 28
00:00 2015

In photo above: Joycelyn V. Johnnson (Submitted photo)

Special to The Chronicle

The St. Philips Heritage Center at Old Salem Museums & Gardens in partnership with Winston-Salem State University will host a luncheon on Thursday, June 4, in celebration of Juneteenth, the country’s longest-running observance of the abolition of slavery.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the announcement of emancipation to the African-American community in Salem, which took place on May 21, 1865.

The Juneteenth luncheon will be from noon to 1:30 p.m. It will take place in the James A. Gray Jr. Auditorium at the Old Salem Visitor Center, 900 Old Salem Road. The luncheon is $25 for adults and $20 for students and Friends of Salem. Reservations must be made in advance by calling 1-800-441-5305.

The luncheon speaker is Dr. Reginald F. Hildebrand, associate professor of African-American Studies and History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His topic is “The First Year of Freedom in North Carolina: Pursuing Freedom with the Hoe and the Sword, the Book and the Lord.” He will use firsthand accounts to explain some of the ways in which freedom was experienced in North Carolina in the year 1865.

Included are the words of black Union soldiers that liberated the people of Wilmington; the first Fourth of July celebration of the freed people of Raleigh; and a watch night service to bring in the New Year and mark the anniversary of the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation.

His talk will highlight moments like these to attempt to convey the excitement and challenges of that year. Hildebrand is the author of The Times Were Strange and Stirring: Methodist Preachers and the Crisis of Emancipation (Duke University Press, 1995).
The 2015 St. Philips Cedric S. Rodney Unity Award will be presented to Joycelyn V. Johnson and Rev. Stephen McCutchan. The award was established in honor of the late Rev. Dr. Cedric S. Rodney, a Moravian minister who led the restoration efforts of the historic St. Philips Moravian Church. The candidates are proven community bridge builders and work successfully to move people toward a common goal for the benefit of our society.

Joycelyn V. Johnnson works as the community outreach coordinator at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. She has been actively engaged throughout the Winston-Salem community for many years serving on the Winston-Salem City Council from 1993-2009. From housing to employment or economic development, her focus has included all members of the diverse population of this city with special emphasis on the needs of youth and seniors.

Retired pastor Rev. Stephen McCutchan spent 38 years in the pastoral ministry. In 1992, his church joined three predominantly black and two other predominantly white churches to found the Presbyterian Inter-Racial Dialogue, which celebrated 20 years of breaking down the barriers of racism with the publication of his book Let’s Have Lunch, Conversation, Race, and Community. Following the luncheon, Rev. McCutchan will be available to sign this book and others.

The luncheon includes a tour of the “Freedom Coming, Freedom For All” exhibit on loan from the North Carolina Freedom Monument Project. Participants may also tour the St. Philips African Moravian Church, the oldest standing African-American Church in North Carolina, where the ending of slavery was announced on Sunday, May 21, 1865.

About St. Philips Heritage Center

The St. Philips Heritage Center in Old Salem is a sacred place significant to the unusual and unique history of this community, and it is a touchstone of the African- American experience. The African and African-American Moravian congregation, organized in Salem in 1822 among a mostly enslaved population, is one of the oldest Black congregations in the United States. 
It is the only historic African-American Moravian congregation in the country. The Heritage Center is comprised of the African Moravian Log Church, St. Philips African Moravian Church, the Strangers Graveyard, the African-American Graveyard and the Path to Happy Hill Overlook.

About Old Salem

Old Salem Museums & Gardens is one of America’s most comprehensive history attractions. Its museums — the Historic Town of Salem, the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA), and the Gardens at Old Salem — engage visitors in an educational and memorable historical experience about those who lived and worked in the early south.
Old Salem Museums & Gardens is at 600 South Main St. in Winston-Salem.
For more information call 336-721-7300 or visit

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