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Fayetteville's NC Civil War Center presents Living History event for Juneteenth

By Staff Report, posted 1 month ago
Leesa Jones

Plan to join the NC History Center on the Civil War, Emancipation & Reconstruction on Monday, June 17 at 7 p.m. at Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church, 1217 Murchison Road, Fayetteville, directly across the street from Fayetteville State University.

Leesa Jones, the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum in Washington, North Carolina and a well-known local historian in Eastern North Carolina, will give the Hari Jones Memorial Lecture. She is appearing in conjunction with the Juneteenth Speakers’ Bureau of the NC African American Heritage Commission.

Leesa Jones says that it won't be an audience listening to a lecturer reading from notes, but an audience participating alongside two teachers in period costumes in a unique living history event.

“The program will consist of singing, dancing and exhibits to help illustrate freedom-seeking information,” said Jones in a press release. "We always engage the audience to join us in this fun and educational presentation. It is a wonderful way to learn and celebrate this amazing history and offer the takeaway of how we can all work together to learn what the Underground Railroad movement taught us, which is, people working together can provide the dignity, respect, compassion and value of life for all people.”

Jones says audience participants will learn how the Underground Railroad provided safe passage for Freedom Seekers, by sharing secretly coded information in songs, clothing, food, flowers and even nursery rhymes. That code provided Freedom Seekers with information about how, when and where to escape. Further, there will be information shared about who helped.

In keeping with Jones’ roots in Washington, NC, she will illustrate the role 'Black Jacks' (Black Ship Pilots) and others working in the maritime industry on the North Carolina coastline played in passing on vital information to abolitionists and Freedom Seekers about how to gain passage aboard ships and offer advice about a ship's destination.

The event marks the Center’s sixth commemoration of Juneteenth, a federal holiday observing the emancipation of the enslaved during the Civil War, and the fifth in memory of the late Hari Jones.

Jones was a prominent African American historian, who was the assistant director and curator at the African American Civil War Freedom Foundation and Museum in Washington, DC. 

In June 2018, Jones last spoke in Fayetteville about Juneteenth. Several days later, Jones died of a sudden heart attack in Washington. The Center decided to honor his memory and his contribution to our understanding of the African American community during the Civil War and afterward, through Reconstruction and the Jim Crow era, by sponsoring the Hari Jones Memorial Lecture Series.

Invited speakers to the series have included civil rights activist and retired Guilford College history professor Dr. Adrienne Israel, and Methodist University history professor Dr. Peter Murray, who spoke in 2019; Dr. Vernon Burton, professor of history at Clemson University, who spoke in 2021; Dr. Spencer Crew, who is a Clarence J. Robinson Professor at George Mason University, and emeritus director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, who spoke in 2022; and Dr. Darin J. Waters, deputy secretary for the state’s Office of Archives and History and a well-known North Carolina historian, who spoke in 2023.

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