Seeks to raise awareness of special day in black history
Sen. Anastasia Pittman joined citizens of Clearview, one of Oklahoma’s historical all-black towns, last week to celebrate their Founder’s Day and Juneteenth. Juneteenth is the oldest-known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the U.S.
“It was an honor to be asked to speak at this historical celebration remembering that blessed day when our ancestors found out they were free at last and were finally to be treated as human beings not property,” said Pittman, D-Oklahoma City. “Juneteenth was a time when families gathered to reassure each other, pray and find other family members in those early days of freedom. We continue that tradition so we never forget where we came from and what our ancestors went through so that we could be free. I want to thank the Clearview community for continuing this historic tradition and letting me be a part of it.”
Former and present Clearview residents gathered for the special event entitled “Cherishing the Past, Focusing on the Future” featuring Founder’s Day Chairman, Dr. Donnie Nero Sr.; Clearview Mayor Marilyn Jackson; Founder’s Day president Veola French West; pastor Derrick Scoby; Angela Bush; Frank Simmons; town secretary, treasurer and clerk Shirley Nero and Sen. Pittman. The special events also included a presentation from the Civil Rights Division of ODOT, the historical interpretation of Chief Alfred Charles Sams by Bruce Fisher, a historical bus tour of Clearview and the Founder’s Day committee and community recognizing the Citizens of the Year recipients James P. and Vivian H. Owens.
“Juneteenth and Founder’s Day are important in the preservation, gathering and sharing of the history of our people and we hope the coming years provide further insight into Oklahoma and African American history,” said Dr. Donnie Nero Sr.
On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston, Texas with the news that the war had ended and the enslaved were now free. This was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which became official on January 1, 1863. Due to the low number of Union troops to enforce the new executive order, Texans had ignored it.
“We must cherish the many freedoms we have now as Americans and continue to work together with our fellow citizens of all colors and backgrounds to strengthen our nation. Collaboration takes courage but we must learn from the challenges of the past and work towards a brighter future for all citizens,” said Pittman.
Sen. Pittman will join with Rep. John Paul Jordan to author legislation this coming session to make June 19th a holiday in Oklahoma to allow families the day off to celebrate the state’s black history and to recognize the Juneteenth celebration, which runs through July 4th. The bill would have Juneteenth recognized by the state as a "skeleton crew" holiday meaning government offices would not be shut down but agencies could operate with reduced staff.
“The ending of slavery should be recognized and celebrated in every community in Oklahoma. As President Lincoln stated, ‘If slavery is not wrong, then nothing is wrong’. It’s important for us as a nation and state to remember past challenges and celebrate overcoming them,” said Rep. Jordan, R-Oklahoma City. “I want to thank Sen. Pittman for her work in ensuring Juneteenth is recognized and more can learn about this important time in our country’s history. I’m looking forward to working on legislation with her to make this an official state holiday. Juneteenth can be the kickoff of a long period of Freedom Celebrations. From June 19th
to July 4th, Oklahomans can unite and celebrate our liberties.”
Pittman added that while celebrating Juneteenth and other freedoms, Oklahomans must also recognize modern day slavery that is common in Oklahoma and fight to stop it.
“While celebrating Juneteenth and our many other freedoms, we can also spotlight the fact that slavery still persists today through human trafficking and the sex trade,” said Pittman. “Adults and kids are kidnapped on a nearly basis and sold into sex slavery or forced to work against their will in horrible conditions. It’s our duty to take action and stop these atrocities.”
In her effort to raise awareness of Oklahoma’s black history, Pittman joined with the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department, the Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma History Center and the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum in recent years to help with the writing of “Long Road to Liberty, Oklahoma’s African American History & Culture”. To get a free copy of the book, contact Sen. Pittman or the Tourism Department at (405) 230-8420 or www.travelok.com.
Sen. Pittman: (405) 521-5531