Stories Celebrate Juneteenth Day

Auburn Citizen (Auburn, NY), June 16, 2005


The Auburn Human Rights Commission brought the message of Juneteenth Day to a new generation on Wednesday with a celebration featuring storytellers.

The commission’s annual commemoration of Juneteenth Day, which marks the day the last slaves were freed in 1865, brought students from area schools to the Booker T. Washington Center.

The afternoon celebration included a proclamation given by Auburn Mayor Timothy Lattimore, a citation by New York state Assemblyman Gary Finch and professional storytelling from the Blackstorytelling League of Rochester.

Telling the story of Brer Rabbit, Robin Nowell spoke of the history of the story.

“Stories such as this one would have hidden code and meanings in them,” Nowell said. “The animals would represent the slaves without saying their names. For example, a story of a small rabbit that would defeat a strong bear was a hidden message that even the slaves could defeat their masters.” Nowell shared animal tales formed from stories she heard within her own family while growing up.

“Slaves were not allowed to have books, and many didn’t know how to read and write,” Lattimore said.

“They kept everything in stories that were passed down from generation to generation.”

Subjects Covered: diversity training, education

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