Juneteenth: Why You Should Celebrate on Hilton Head Island

On June 19, 1865, slavery was abolished in the state of Texas. Isolated from the rest of the confederacy by geography, news was slow to travel to the Lone Star state that the Civil War had ended, so they remained the last holdout for legal slavery for several months until Union Army General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston and read aloud the Emancipation Proclamation from the front porch of Ashton Villa.

It was the ultimate end of slavery in the United States, and the commemorate this occasion, African-American communities throughout the country celebrate with Juneteenth festivals that feature historical reenactors, readings of the proclamation and a day-long celebration of freedom.

Juneteenth on Hilton Head Island
There are Juneteenth celebrations across the country, but the celebration on Hilton Head Island holds a special meaning, thanks to the island’s unique role in African-American history. While just a few miles up the coast, the port of Charleston served as the place where millions of Africans entered into forced bondage, it was here on this small barrier island they first tasted freedom.

Hilton Head Island was one of the first places to be captured by Union Forces, owing to its strategic position between the ports of Savannah and Charleston. Add to that, it provided a launch pad for an assault on nearby Bluffton, where the seeds of secession had first taken root.

When Union Forces arrived, they found themselves overrun with freed slaves. Not only the ones who had already been on the island, freed when their masters fled, but also slaves from nearby plantations across the greater Beaufort area, drawn by freedom’s call. To provide a home for all of them, General Ormsby Mitchel built a settlement he called Mitchelville. For the first time, slaves had a free village to call their own, with a school, elected officials and housing for all.

Because Mitchelville holds such a distinctive spot in African-American history, its Juneteenth celebration holds deep meaning. From 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. Saturday, June 16, Mitchelville Freedom Park will come alive with the sights and sounds of the native Gullah culture. In addition to a special performance by Ranky Tank, live music performers will include Mt. Calvary Children’s Choir, St. James Baptist Children Dancers, Voices of El Shaddai, the St. Helena Elementary School Dancers and Drummers group and Dr. Marlena Smalls & The Hallelujah Singers.

Add to this historical re-enactments, Gullah storytellers, a vendor village and plenty of activities for the kids and you have a day that lets you salute a great moment in American history while immersing yourself in the vibrant native culture of the sea islands.

Where to Stay
Juneteenth is just a few weeks away – making this the perfect opportunity to plan a spontaneous trip to Hilton Head. Vacation Company has hundreds of great vacation homes and villas to rent, from luxurious oceanfront mansions to intimate marshside retreats. If you want a great deal on a property that will make this island getaway truly special, check out their specials page. You’re sure to find your ideal vacation spot for a great price.