- This event has passed.
Old Sturbridge Village, Juneteenth
June 20 @ 9:30 am - 5:00 pm EDT
Exploring the Words of Frederick Douglass
Inspired by the HBO Max film Frederick Douglass: In Five Speeches, students from Old Sturbridge Academy and area high schools will share abbreviated readings of select speeches by Black abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Born into slavery in 1817 in Maryland, Douglass escaped from slavery in 1838 and became a well-known orator and writer as well as a leading abolitionist in Massachusetts and New York. After hearing his words, guests are invited to engage in discussions about the context and significance of these speeches.
This portion of Juneteenth programming is brought to you by a Reading Frederick Douglass Together grant from Mass Humanities.
What is Juneteenth? How does it connect to Old Sturbridge Village?
Juneteenth is a day commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in 1865. More specifically, it marks the day in 1865 when troops arrived in Galveston Texas to ensure the freedom of those enslaved at the time, more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
The road to emancipation was a long one and although slavery wasn’t abolished in the country until decades after the Village’s time period, many seeds of abolition were sown in the first half of the 19th century through lectures, art, articles, books, and other forms of activism. As a part of our Juneteenth program, guests can:
- Hear a Gospel singer from Worcester perform
- Visit with Cardethia Moore of Waistbeads by Cardethia for a craft on the Common. Her waistbeads will also be available for sale.
- Taste samples of foods from Addie Lee’s Soul Food of Worcester MA (timeframe TBD)
- Hear Sha-Asia Medina recite a special poem from a pointed star quilt
- Take an “Uncomfortable Truths” walking tour led by a Village historian
- Learn about the Quock Walker case in the Law Office
- See interpreters make Brooks Cake and learn how Mary Brooks, headmistress of the Concord Female Anti-Slavery Society, raised money for the cause through baking
- Play mancala, a game that originated in East Africa
- Discuss connections between the 19th-century New England economy and slavery in the southern states
- Learn about 19th-century abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison
Did You Know? The Road to Freedom in Massachusetts
In 1781, Elizabeth Freeman (also known as Mum Bett) won her freedom from slavery in court. Elizabeth was born into slavery in approximately 1744. At some point, while enslaved in John Ashley’s household in Massachusetts, Elizabeth heard readings of the Declaration of Independence, the Sheffield Declaration, and the Massachusetts constitution, which all spoke of the equality of mankind. She then turned to attorney Theodore Sedgwick for help in fighting for her freedom in court. Sedgwick argued that since the Massachusetts constitution of 1780 stated “all men are born free and equal”, slavery was unconstitutional. The jury agreed with Sedgwick. After gaining her freedom from slavery in August of 1781, Elizabeth worked as a paid servant in Sedgwick’s household. She was eventually able to purchase a plot of land and her own house, where she lived with her daughter and grandchildren.
Several other enslaved persons in Massachusetts, such as Kwaku Walker (sometimes referred to as Quock Walker) also sued for their freedom around the same time. These cases were precursors to the 1783 decision that ended slavery in Massachusetts. By 1788, slavery was abolished in the state, though residents still benefitted economically and materially from the institution of slavery in the south.