The Hosanna School Museum’s Upper Bay Juneteenth Festival will return to an in-person celebration on Saturday for its sixth-annual event to commemorate the end of slavery and celebrate African American history and culture.
“We’re thrilled to bring the longest-running Juneteenth celebration in the Upper Bay back as an in-person event this year,” said Iris Leigh Barnes, executive director of the Hosanna School Museum. “Juneteenth is a momentous time in our history and this year we have a host of fun and educational activities for all ages as we celebrate our African American history and culture.”
This year’s event will include “edu-tainment” for the entire family, Barnes said, including Buffalo Soldiers with horse rides, a genealogy workshop, crafts, science experiments, old-fashioned field games, book signings and a puppet show. There also will be self-guided tours of Hosanna School Museum, food, vendors and performances.
A “Transition to Freedom Concert” will be performed by the group Rhema Praise. From spirituals to Gospel to Motown to Civil Rights “message music,” and contemporary selections, Rhema Praise will promote harmony, peace and healing by taking listeners on a musical journey through the African American experience.
Before Juneteenth became a national holiday, Hosanna School Museum believed it was an extremely important holiday since it was marked the freedom for not just a few slaves but all slaves, Barnes said.
Juneteenth is the oldest, nationally recognized commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Union Army General Gordon Granger announced in Galveston, Texas, that all slaves were free – almost two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
“With Juneteenth, we all needed to celebrate it even if we are not in Texas,” Barnes said. “On the East Coast, we were not really celebrating Juneteenth. It should be just as important us here as it was in Teas in 1865.”
The festival went virtual in 2021 and like other events returning in person, people were very excited to have this event in-person which made it much easier to logistically put it together, Barnes said. The museum was able to get more volunteers and a whole new set of sponsors, Barnes said.
The festival is sponsored in part by Harford County Government, the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway, Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, Harford County Cultural Arts Board, Maryland State Arts Council, Visit Harford and the Harford County Public Library.
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“We’re excited to be a sponsor of this historic event,” said Harford County Executive Barry Glassman. “Juneteenth is a day to rejoice, and so I have declared it a Harford County holiday beginning this year for everyone to learn from and celebrate. As a longtime supporter of the Hosanna School Museum, and with inspiration from its success, I am proud that my administration is also establishing the county’s first African American Heritage Preservation Program to continue educating future generations.”
In recognition of the date, admission to this year’s Juneteenth festival is $18.65. Children 12 years of age and under are free. Festival hours are 12-6 p.m. with the concert beginning at 4:30 p.m.
Hosanna School Museum was the first of three Freedmen’s Bureau schoolhouses erected in Harford County. Also known as Berkley School, Hosanna was built on land owned by Joseph Paca, the son of Cupid Paca, a free African American who bought 50 acres of land stretching from Berkley to Darlington.
The Freedmen’s Bureau provided construction materials for the two-story frame building while the men of the community provided the labor. The building was used as a school, community meeting place and church. In 1879, Harford County school commissioners assumed operation of the school and Hosanna remained an active schoolhouse for African American children until 1946.
Currently, it is a living schoolhouse museum, attracting visitors from all over the country. The building is also available for community meetings or public and private events.
The Hosanna School Museum is located at 2424 Castleton Road in Darlington.