This year’s Eighth of August Jubilee brings a giant of the Civil Rights Movement to Knoxville.
Joanne Bland, co-founder and former director of the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma, Alabama, owner-operator of Journeys for the Soul touring agency, and lifelong civil rights witness and activist, will be the special guest for a red-carpet event featuring the screening of “After Selma” at the historic Tennessee Theatre on Gay Street.
Born and raised in Selma, Bland joined The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, organized to include children and teens in the fight for Civil Rights, as a young girl. By the time she was 11, she had been arrested 13 times.
When then-25-year-old John Lewis — later a U.S. representative from Georgia — led more than 600 people across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in a demonstration for voting rights on March 7, 1965, she was there.
On that day, known as “Bloody Sunday,” she watched her fellow marchers get brutally beaten and tear-gassed by mounted policemen.
On her website, iamjoannebland.com, she states, “I have seen firsthand how racism and segregation created a deadly divide between two races and decided that it was my duty to ensure that my voice was one of the many that was heard to create equality and voting rights for African Americans. My early involvement in the struggle against ‘Jim Crow,’ the American apartheid, has been the foundation and fuel for my civil and human rights work.”
“After Selma,” a documentary written and directed by Loki Mulholland in collaboration with New York Times bestselling authors Carol Anderson and Bland, takes an in-depth look at the history of voting rights after the landmark protest.
Mulholland, the son of civil rights icon Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, will also attend the film’s showing. His Emmy-winning film “The Uncomfortable Truth” was shown at Knoxville’s 2017 Eighth of August event.
The significance of the Eighth of August is well known to Tennesseans of African American descent. Its importance is traced to the Emancipation Proclamation, issued by President Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863, which declared all slaves in the United States to be free.
Tennessee’s military governor, Andrew Johnson, did not free his personal slaves until later that year — on the Eighth of August.
The date was later signed to Knoxvillians during the early-20th century days of legal segregation; the Eighth of August was the one day per year that Black people could enter and enjoy Chilhowee Park. This tradition continued until 1948.
The Eighth of August Jubilee begins on Friday, Aug. 5 with a 7 p.m. concert featuring Evelyn Jack & the Summer Soul Whitty Band on the Beck Cultural Exchange Center lawn.
On Saturday, Aug. 6 at 11 a.m., the Beck will lead an Emancipation Celebration during the 37th Annual Lonsdale Homecoming Parade.
On Sunday, Aug. 7 at 7:30 a.m., the Eighth Annual Libation Tribute Ceremony — a tradition honoring enslaved ancestors freed on Aug. 8, 1863 — will take place at Freemen’s Mission Historic Cemetery adjacent to Knoxville College.
All these events are free.
The gala showing of “After Selma” will wrap up the Jubilee on Monday, Aug. 8, with early-bird VIP tickets available for a 4 p.m. admittance, followed by a 6 p.m. general ticket admittance.
Additional Emancipation Day in Tennessee events
Mabry-Hazen House at 1711 Dandridge Ave. will offer three tours on Aug. 8 to recognize the Emancipation Day in Tennessee.
“Stories of Emancipation at Mabry-Hazen House” will feature stories, objects, and research related to local enslaved communities, their achievements, struggles, and the various ways they gained freedom.
The free tours will begin at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. and are limited to 24 visitors per tour. Mabryhazen.com/events/emancipationday has more event information.
From 12-1 p.m. at the East Tennessee History Center, located at 601 S. Gay St., William Isom II, director of Black in Appalachia, will discuss the history and importance of Emancipation Day in Tennessee, as well as emancipation in the South and how it is observed nationally.
Tickets to the event are free and reservations can be made on Eventbrite via easttnhistory.org. Though seating is limited, the event will be streamed on Zoom and Facebook Live. More streaming details can be found on The East Tennessee History website.
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This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Participant from the 1965 Selma march will be at 8th of August Jubilee