History museum

Reveal of mural and opening of history museum marks June 19 celebration

For the first time since it began being celebrated in Jacksonville, this year’s Juneteenth event will take place in the downtown Jacksonville plaza for community members to gather and celebrate the now official holiday.

NAACP President Polly Williams said the organization plans to celebrate the holiday and recognize a prominent African-American figure from Jacksonville with the dedication of a new mural.

The mural recognizes Dr. Alonzo Kennibrew, who was the nation’s first African-American physician to open a surgical hospital. He was also the founder of the Jacksonville chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The mural is on the east side of the Lincoln Land Community College building in the plaza.

Williams said Kenniebrew works in multiple states, as far north as Canada. He died in 1943 and is buried in Jacksonville East Cemetery.

“You’ll see it when you walk around the square,” Williams said.

In addition to the ceremony, the Juneteenth event will feature vendors and resources for people, Williams said.

June 19 activities have traditionally been held at the community park, but Williams said they wanted a new location this year in honor of recognizing June 19 as a federal holiday.

“We thought we’d do it in the square to help attract more people to businesses there,” she said. “It took a while to be recognized as a public holiday.”

While President Abraham Lincoln freed slaves, it took years for word to spread from Washington to the United States, Williams said.

“It’s the oldest known celebration of our freedom,” Williams said.

In addition to the mural dedication, the day’s activities will include speeches, and the northwest corner of the plaza will be closed to traffic for a children’s area with activities.

A bus will also transport people from the square to the Jacksonville Museum of African American History, which will open from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Asa Talcott House Museum at 859 Grove St. will be open for the first time to share local and national African American history.

Art Wilson, one of the museum’s founders, said he was delighted that they were able to open the museum in time for the June 19 celebration.

“Thanks to the funds and the people working with us, we were able to open it in time for the celebration,” Wilson said. “I think it’s going to be a pretty amazing place to watch history. I hope people enjoy it and learn things about Jacksonville that they never knew.”

Jacksonville native Creston Whitaker, a former New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams football player, will also speak at the opener.

“A lot of people here knew him when he was growing up and he stood out and had a good character,” Wilson said.

Tours of the house will be guided, with the guide presenting local information alongside more well-known national information.

The museum will contain information about the local NAACP, local personalities and national history. The house itself is tied to African American history and the Underground Railroad.

The Asa Talcott House was the home of Asa and Marie Talcott. Asa Talcott was related to Benjamin Henderson, a free African American who was also a conductor for the Underground Railroad. Asa Talcott helped provide supplies for Henderson and those he was helping. He also helped those fleeing the South by hiding them in his barn.

After the grand opening, the museum will be open from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from July 9 to September 29, after which it will close for the season but will be available for private tours.

Activities on June 16 in the Town Center Square will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.