Teresa Torrence-Tillman Recounts Juneteenth’s History


The County of Marin African-America Employee Association hosted a Juneteenth Celebration on Thursday, June 20 at the Civic Center Lagoon across from the State Building in San Rafael.

The employee association is made up of County of Marin employees of African descent who believe in promoting diversity, strengthening relationships, building trust and creating leaders within the county. The association’s members serve and support African American employees by providing professional development, cultural awareness and celebrating diversity.

Around 60 people came to the event and enjoyed a picnic lunch of hamburger, chicken and potato salad.

Kelly Carol Thomas sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and also performed a dance, “I Know Where I’ve Been,” with Kahaya Adams. Declarea performed a Gospel rap.

Teresa Torrence-Tillman, a member of association, talked about the history of Juneteenth.

Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, arrived at Galveston, Texason June 19, 1865 and read to the people of Texas General Order Number 3, which said, “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

This was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official on Jan. 1, 1863. Yet the Proclamation had little impact in Texas, until the Union forces became strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.

Juneteenth continued to be commemorated in Texas decades later. Former slaves and descendants made an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date.

“I was born and raised in North Carolina,” said Torrence-Tillman. “Many of my ancestors were slaves. So I grew up hearing their stories about how the churches were filled with families on Dec. 31, 1862 for Watch Service.

“They gathered together to “Watch” the clock, and pray that the President would sign the emancipation order, and that no one would come and attack them out of anger,” she said.

“At first Memorial Day was just celebrated. The Black churches in Cabarrus County would bus it’s families 26 miles to the National Cemetery in Salisbury, N.C. for a huge picnic. Everyone would dress in all white.

“There were red white and blue decorations. Festivities would open with prayer and pastors would read the Bible. Spirituals, gospel, and patriotic songs would be sung, including John Brown Body and the Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

“In later years, when the carnival rides came, the grounds were divided into ‘Colored


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