Hosanna School Museum Hosts Third Annual Juneteenth Celebration

At last year’s Juneteenth celebration at Hosanna School Museum, audience members joined Urban Foli African Drummers during a performance. (Photo by Donna Lewis)

Hosanna School Museum will hold its third annual Juneteenth celebration festival on Saturday, June 22, from noon to 6 p.m. at the museum, 2424 Castleton Road in Darlington. The festival is open to the public, free of charge, and takes place rain or shine (protected under tents).

Juneteenth is a nationally recognized day that commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States and celebrates African American history, culture and achievement.

This year’s celebration will feature Buffalo Soldiers in addition to living history presentations with re-enactors portraying Harriet Tubman and Edmonia Highgate, the first teacher at Hosanna School who is also featured at the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Living history re-enactor Brittany Martin will portray Edmonia Highgate, who came to teach at Hosanna School in the midst of danger while the Civil War was still raging. Highgate is a historical figure who worked alongside nationally recognized abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass, Jermain Loguen and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. While preparing for this living history presentation, historians and volunteers at Hosanna have discovered new information about Highgate and her role at Hosanna.

Also taking place at the Juneteenth celebration will be lectures and book signings; African dancers and drummers with audience participation; liturgical dancers; a variety of musical performances; craft vendors; displays from community organizations and more.

Special activities for children will include griots (storytellers), horse rides and photos with Buffalo Soldiers, and crafts and games.

The day will also feature a variety of food trucks. Hosanna AME Church’s famous fish dinners will also be available.

WAMD will broadcast live throughout the day.

“Despite the rain, our numbers nearly doubled last year from the first year. To prevent the rain from putting a damper on things, we have put all vendors and outdoor performances under large tents,” said Dr. Iris Leigh Barnes, executive director of Hosanna School Museum. “This is a family day of edu-tainment, and we want everyone to participate in the festivities.”

Hosanna School Museum is partnering on the celebration with the Harford County Panhellenic Council of Greek fraternities and sororities and the historic Hosanna AME Church. Sponsors of Juneteenth include Harford County Government and the Harford County Office of Community and Economic Development, New Hope Baptist Church, Harford Community College, McComas Funeral Home, Bel Air Construction, APGFCU, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (Xi Delta Omega Chapter) and Island Spice Restaurant.

As a result of the success of Juneteenth, it is now Hosanna School Museum’s signature community event. Hosanna is actively seeking businesses and individuals interested in event sponsorship, placing an ad in the souvenir booklet or being a craft vendor. To donate, contact Laura Jackson, program and education coordinator, at 410-457-4161.

All proceeds go toward educational and interpretive programming and continued preservation of the historic buildings owned by Hosanna School Museum including McComas Institute and Mt. Zion Church in Joppa.

Hosanna School Museum was the first of three Freedmen’s Bureau schoolhouses erected in Harford County. Also known as Berkley School, Hosanna was built on land owned by Joseph Paca, the son of Cupid Paca, a free African American who bought 50 acres of land stretching from Berkley to Darlington, at a time when black land ownership was openly obstructed.

The Freedmen’s Bureau provided construction materials for the two-story frame building while the men of the community provided the labor. The building was used as a school, community meeting place and church. Operation of the school was assumed by the Harford County School Commissioners in 1879. Hosanna remained active as a schoolhouse for African American children until 1946.

Two years later, in 1948, Hosanna Community House, Inc. (current owner) was formed. The school building was used as a community meeting place until 1954 when Hurricane Hazel sheared off the top floor. With limited funds, the board preserved what was left of the building by placing a roof on the remaining structure. After these repairs, the building was once again a community center, although one story, used primarily by the Boys Scouts.

Significant restoration of the building began in 1983, and the second floor was rebuilt in 2005, returning it to its original two-story structure. Currently it is a living schoolhouse museum, attracting visitors from all over the country. The building is also available for community meetings or public and private events.

For more information or to make a donation in support of the history and culture of Harford County through the lens of the African American experience, visit hosannaschoolmuseum.org.

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