Posted Thursday, May 30, 2019
First Annual “Freedom Walk” to Take Place in Morristown
on June 8th as Part of ‘Juneteenth’ Celebration
Mile-long march from Historic Speedwell to the Morristown Green will commemorate the abolition of slavery
by Susan Bloom
As part of Morristown’s June 8th celebration of ‘Juneteenth,’ a holiday commemorating the abolition of slavery, The Morris County Tourism Bureau will be sponsoring the first annual “Freedom Walk” in Morristown beginning at 11:30 a.m.
Starting off at Historic Speedwell — a National Historic Landmark located at 333 Speedwell Avenue which preserves the restored 19th century estate of Stephen Vail, proprietor of the Speedwell Iron Works, and includes the factory where the telegraph was first demonstrated in 1838 — the event will kick off with an initial reading of the Emancipation Proclamation at 11:30 a.m. followed by a 1.3-mile Freedom Walk to the Morristown Green.
“We’re excited to do our part to recognize the significance of the Emancipation Proclamation, embrace our area’s history, and also acknowledge the importance of African American soldiers to both the Revolutionary and Civil War,” said Lesley Bensley, Executive Director of the Morris County Tourism Bureau.
Issued by 16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln on January 1st, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation changed the federal legal status of more than 3.5 million enslaved African Americans in southern states from slave to free. ‘Juneteenth’ (also known as ‘Freedom Day’) officially commemorates the June 19th, 1865 announcement of the abolition of slavery for the last remaining slaves located in east Texas, but the day has come to recognize the emancipation of all slaves throughout the former Confederate states. Though different towns throughout the country celebrate Juneteenth activities on various days in June, June 19th is recognized as a state holiday or special day of observance in 45 states.
From 10 a.m. to noon on June 8th (beginning just prior to the kickoff of the walk), costumed re-enactors from the Second New Jersey Brigade will bring the American Civil War to life by demonstrating bayonet drills, cannon firings, skirmishes, and other activities common to soldiers of that era. The Freedom Walk will then celebrate and recognize the strength and dignity the slaves had to move forward after the announcement of the abolition of slavery.
In the past, several prominent Morristown churches, including the United Methodist Church and the over 175-year-old Bethel AME Church, have played an active role in commemorating annual Juneteenth activities. This year, the Morris County Tourism Bureau is proud to participate in the area’s commemoration by adding the first annual Freedom Walk to its calendar of Summer 2019 Historic Walking Tours, a collection of guided excursions designed to help participants experience the rich history that Morris County has to offer.
Helping History to Come Alive
A number of other public events will be taking place in Morristown on June 8th in honor of Juneteenth, sponsored by The Sankofa Heritage Collective of Morris County, which aims to connect generations of people of African descent by expanding and documenting the contributions they’ve made to the community. These events include a gathering on the Morristown Green at 12 noon with musical guests Jimmy Dumas and Ingrid Crew along with spoken word performers and a formal 12:30 p.m. reading of the Emancipation Proclamation on the Green to hear the words of the Executive Order issued by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 that freed Southern slaves. Other events will include a panel discussion on “Gentrification, Race & Freedom” with Larry Hamm of the People’s Organization for Progress and Dr. Betty Livingston Adams, author of Black Women’s Christian Activism, at 3:30 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church of Morristown. Sankofa has also organized a ‘Wakanda Edition Bar Crawl’ beginning at 4 p.m., which combines a discussion of African American history in Morris County with a visit to three local restaurants, followed by a free celebration at the Hyatt Regency Hotel (3 Speedwell Avenue) at 7 p.m. to celebrate and recognize those who came before us while uniting with those in our presence to move forward.
In comments shared with the media during the 2018 commemoration of Juneteenth, Sidney Williams, Jr., Pastor of the Morristown Bethel AME, shared that “many area residents do not know that African Americans have lived in Morristown since before the American Revolution [and that] slaves fought in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.”
The Morris County Tourism Bureau hopes that the June 8th events will help promote greater awareness of these critical aspects of both national and local history. “The Freedom Walk represents a new way in which area residents can learn about and commemorate the historic significance of Juneteenth and we’re expecting a strong turnout,” said the MCTB’s Bensley. “We’re excited to offer this free family event and hope to see it become an annual tradition that helps to make history come alive and contributes to healing the scars that we deal with as a nation following the shadow of slavery.”
For More Information:
The Morris County Tourism Bureau is a Destination Marketing Organization that positively affects the economy of Morris County by promoting the area’s exceptional historic, cultural, and recreational opportunities by providing services to residents, business travelers, and tourists. The MCTB is located at 6 Court Street in Morristown; for more information on the Freedom Walk or any of the MCTB’s many events, call (973) 631-5151 or visit www.morristourism.org. To register for the Freedom Walk, visit www.eventbrite.com/e/the-freedom-walk-tickets-60580451762; to register for any other Juneteenth events, visit www.sankofamorris.org.
• Lesley Bensley, Executive Director, Morris County Tourism Bureau in Morristown
Posted Monday, May 6th, 2019
Highlights the Positive Impact of Tourism on the County
Deputy Freeholder Director Heather Darling presented a special proclamation to Leslie Bensley, Executive Director of the Morris County Tourism Bureau, who was joined by her staff and other leaders of the tourism industry in Morris County
The Morris County Board of Freeholders today proclaimed this week, May 5-11, as National Travel and Tourism Week in Morris County, calling attention to the economic, image and quality of life benefits provided by the influx of tourists into this county, especially through the efforts of the Morris County Tourism Bureau.
View the video: https://youtu.be/F7J_QG0pmnY
Deputy Freeholder Director Heather Darling presented a special proclamation to Leslie Bensley, the veteran Executive Director of the Tourism Bureau, who was joined by her staff and other leaders of the tourism industry in Morris County at a special event this morning at the Board of Freeholders’ meeting in Morristown.
“We are highlighting the positive effects of tourism on the county’s economy and our high quality of life, and also our positive image across the state and nation as an important historic destination,’’ said Freeholder Darling.
‘’Through the efforts of the Morris County Tourism Bureau, we have welcomed visitors to walk in the footsteps of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, visit the nation’s first national historical park and landmarks that tell the story of the Industrial Revolution and the Gilded Age and the American Arts & Crafts movement, among many others.’’
The tourism industry employed 22,362 people in Morris County in 2017 and tourists spent $2.2 billion in Morris County, which has helped ease the tax burden for Morris County residents.
Director Bensley noted, “Morris County’s unique historical and cultural resources are major tourism attractions. Tourism fosters awareness of and engagement with these resources by residents, community leaders, businesses and visitors and ultimately increases the quality of life for local residents.”
It specializes in heritage tourism, which is defined as “traveling to experience the places, artifacts and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past.”
In addition to partnering with numerous historic groups and businesses across the county, the Tourism Bureau offers many programs, such as walking tours that have featured a variety of topics, from the historic murder trial of Antoine Le Blanc to the love life of Alexander Hamilton and a tours of a haunted cemetery, among many others.