By Mike Steely
Greeneville’s Andrew Johnson was a pro-Union Democrat and slave owner. When he stuck with the Union and Abraham Lincoln named him Military Governor of Tennessee, Johnson announced, on August 8th, 1863, that he was releasing all the slaves he and family owned.
Later that year he ordered the release of all slaves in Tennessee.
The family slaves he released chose to stay with the Johnson family as servants and employees. One of those slaves was Samuel Johnson who went into business, raised his family, and worked to establish August 8th as a holiday in Greeneville in 1871.
In the Volunteer State, August 8th became Emancipation Day as well as in seven southern states and 55 communities.
Since 2015 Knoxville’s Beck Cultural Center has hosted the annual August Jubilee.
Some of this year’s events include several events this week.
On August 5th, from 7 until 9 p.m. the Eight of August Jubilee Celebration Concert is at the Beck Center with Evelyn Jack and the Summer Soul Whitty Band. It’s a lawn chair event and party platters will be available by Allow Me catering. The concert is free to the public.
Sunday, August 7th, is the Libation Ceremonies at 7:30 p.m. It is a tribute to enslaved descendants of the Johnson slaves. Ned Arter, a great, great-grandson of Samuel Johnson will be a special guest.
On Saturday, August 8th, the 37th annual Lonsdale Parade kicks off at 11 a.m. at Freedman’s Mission Historic Cemetery next to Knoxville College.
The Beck Center hosts a Red Carpet Event “After Selma” on August 8th at the Tennessee Theater. A VIP event there starts at 4 p.m. and general Admission is at 6 p.m. VIP tickets are $50 and General Admission is $15. Special guests include civil-rights activist Jo Ann Bland and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Loki Mulholland.
Also on August 8th the noted veteran public-television filmmaker William Isom will share some of his recent research into the history of August 8. He’ll talk about how it started, and how it has grown beyond our region. The East Tennessee Historical museum’s event is at noon as part of the Brown Bag series at the History Center. The event is also scheduled for Tuesday, August 9th, at Marble Hall, 414 South Gay Street.