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Stafford County to celebrate 'Juneteenth' Saturday

Sunday - 6/19/2011, 2:40pm  ET

Kathy Stewart, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - June 19 is an African-American heritage day known nationally as Juneteenth. It's also known as Freedom Day and Emancipation Day says Paula Royster, president of the Center for African American Genealogical Research.

Juneteenth commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the state of Texas. Royster says that on June 19, 1865 slaves in Galveston, Texas were finally told they had been freed. It is recognized as a state holiday in 39 states and D.C.

On June 25, Stafford County is holding a Juneteenth celebration at Aquia Landing Park. Royster says it's going to be a wonderful day of family fun and education for everyone.

What she's most excited about is that the descendants of a slave couple who pulled off a dangerous journey to freedom in the 1840s will be coming from across the country to attend the event.

Royster connected with the descendants of William and Ellen Craft. The Crafts smuggled themselves in disguise through Aquia Landing in Stafford in the 1840s, before the start of the Civil War, and on to freedom.

At Aquia, the couple boarded a boat that carried them cross the Mason-Dixon Line. "Aquia Landing was important to getting them by steamboat over to Maryland through Philadelphia," Royster says.

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