BRIAN J. TRAUTMAN, Pittsfield
The struggle to end slavery in the United States will be commemorated in a lively celebration on Saturday, June 15, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., at the Du Bois Center, Great Barrington. The event kicks off the second annual Lift Ev’ry Voice Festival, a month long celebration of African-American culture and heritage in the Berkshires.
Opening in 2006, the Du Bois Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to exploring the African-American experience and issues regarding social justice through a civil rights museum and educational programs and events. The center’s genesis is rooted in local school committee and selectmen meetings, school names, road signage, a bookstore, community forums and scholar retreats, churches and schools, historical societies, and a cemetery.
The Juneteenth Celebration will feature a variety of Civil War-related activities, including music and dance performances, historical reenactments, speeches, recitals, book and memorabilia sales, and displays of original artifacts, including an original sketch of Robert E. Lee surrendering to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse in 1865.
Randy F. Weinstein, the center’s executive director, regards this event as an opportunity to reflect on the extraordinary efforts and sacrifices of a generation of soldiers and activists: "Our celebration is really a commemoration of participants, from black privates who enlisted in the famed 54th Massachusetts Regiment, several of whom are buried in the cemetery beside the Du Bois Center, to the general and chief of the Union armies, Ulysses Grant, a friend and hero of Frederick Douglass, who ended slavery by the destruction of the main Confederate army on the battlefields around Richmond in 1865."
Local author and human rights activist Scott Christianson, who is scheduled to speak at the celebration, offers these thoughts on the meaning and significance of the event: "This is a fitting time to honor the sacrifices made by slaves, soldiers, abolitionists and concerned citizens who finally brought down the hideous institution of chattel slavery that had plagued the country for centuries. Just a few years before the Civil War, few Americans would have believed that it could be achieved. The Slave Power was simply too strong. Yet it was done. Now we are still living with the sectional and racial divisions. There remains much to be done. Let us all come together and keep our eyes on the prize."
The center is located at 684 South Main Street in Great Barrington, adjacent to the Mahaiwe Cemetery. For more information, contact Mr. Weinstein at 413-644-9595; firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Center’s website: www.duboiscentergb.org.
There is a $10 suggested admission for the event.
BRIAN J. TRAUTMAN
The writer is an instructor of peace studies at Berkshire Community College, a member of Berkshire Citizens for Peace and Justice, and a volunteer with the Du Bois Center, Great Barrington.