The United States declared itself a country free from subjugation on July 4, 1776. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863. But it wasn’t until June 19, 1865 that more than 250,000 African Americans were reduced to slavery were freed by executive order. – a day known as Juneteenth.
In commemoration of the new federal holiday, the Brunswick High football team traveled to Jekyll Island for a day of learning, bonding and growing.
“It’s important for kids to understand their history, understand their culture, so they can be proud of their culture,” said Jason Bishop, Pirates assistant coach and high school African-American history teacher. “Often, history can be overlooked when it comes to different classes of people, and today was for them to learn about American history – because it is our history collectively.
“I wanted them to understand the history of Juneteenth, the people who were here and the culture that still survives today.”
After initial training sessions at BHS, the hackers boarded two buses and headed to St. Andrews Park, the location of The Wanderer Memory Trail exhibition which guides guests through the story of a young African boy named Umwalla, who was brought to America. on the last known slave ship in the country.
Bishop led a tour of the area, first showing players a table full of African artefacts and explaining their significance before touching on the history of West Africa and the events leading up to the slave trade transatlantic slaves.
At the start of the tour, Bishop was keen to refute the stereotypical labels given to slaves at the time as uneducated people fighting each other, explaining a number of incredible advancements in a variety of fields.
For example, the Gullah Geechee people, who have deceased people living in the Golden Isles and throughout the Southeast Coast, were known for their revolutionary methods of rice production.
West African King Mansa Musa was the richest man the world had ever seen with a net worth of over $800 billion by today’s standards, and he was renowned for his overwhelming generosity.
Musa regularly donated large amounts of gold, said to have affected the value of gold in the world, and developed what is considered the largest university in the world – Sankoré – in Timbuktu, where he educated Africans for free. from West.
“Nothing in West Africa was individual,” Bishop said. “Everyone worked together for the good of the team, for the good of their community, for the good of their brothers, everyone did their job.”
On the next leg of the tour, Bishop began to tell the crew about the grim realities of the slave trade, which occurred as a triangular trade between Europeans who traded in manufactured goods, namely guns fire, against captured Africans, who were shipped across the Atlantic. Ocean to become slaves to the Americans, where they would work to supply the Europeans with raw materials for their wares.
Even before being chained to the decks of a ship, enslaved Africans faced atrocities in the form of slave castles, where they were kept for months before journeys to weaken themselves by malnutrition.
Bishop described how up to 400 slaves would be locked in a dungeon the size of an average classroom at Brunswick High School. The ground would be littered with rubbish, leading to many captives falling seriously ill. When the disease became overwhelming, entire rooms were set on fire to destroy everything and anyone inside.
When the time came, the slaves would be led through “the gate of no return” and loaded onto ships as cargo.
Even still, there are a plethora of little-known facts that stem from the Middle Passage in the slave trade.
The anthem “Amazing Grace” was written by John Newton, an Anglican minister who served as a captain of a slave ship at that time. The first watermelon grown on the Georgian coast was produced by seeds smuggled into the country in the hair of a slave woman, much like okra seeds.
Even dreadlocks can be traced back to enslaved men who twisted their hair in an attempt to cool off while being transported below deck on a “dreaded journey”.
In the years to come, countless numbers of slaves would be separated from their families and sold into forced labor all over the country, including where the football players were on Jekyll Island.
In observance of the day that Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to issue and enforce General Order No. 3 and free the last slaves, the Brunswick Pirates wanted to celebrate the ability of coming together and the struggles that got them to a place where they can come together, live together and work together.
“Juneteenth is not an African-American celebration — it’s an American celebration,” Bishop said. “That’s when America got rid of the burden of slavery. Slavery affected all Americans. This primarily concerned enslaved Americans, but free people also had to deal with the fact that their neighbors were being treated horribly. They had to deal with the knowledge of what was happening to millions of African Americans in the South, and those African Americans had to endure it.
“So Juneteenth is a celebration of America’s freedom. When America lifted the burden of slavery on our country.
The Pirates wrapped up their team bonding day with an afternoon of lighter fun at the Summer Waves water park on Jekyll Island, but not before a final show of unity.
Gathered at the site where the slave ship Wanderer landed in 1858 with one of the last known groups of enslaved Afticans to be securely held captive in America, each member of the team threw a few handfuls of rice into the water .
“Rice throwing is a very Gullah Geechee cultural thing,” Bishop said. “The Gullah Geechee are known as the rice farmers of the world, among the smartest people when it comes to harvesting and producing rice. This rice has always been an integral part of our culture and our cuisines. Most of our kitchens have rice. You have tomato, okra and rice, you have lima beans and rice, you have collard greens and rice, you have cabbage and rice. It’s part of this Gullah Geechee culture…
“To go to the landing of the last slave ship in Georgia, to go to the very site and these guys holding this rice in their hands, and throwing this rice to show tribute and unison together. Nobody knows where their grain of rice lands, but everything lands together.