Juneteenth at Bull Run

Juneteenth at Bull Run

Remarkable story of private emancipation of enslaved people.

NOVA Parks and the Fairfax County NAACP hosted their Third Annual Juneteenth celebration to recognize the largest private emancipation of the enslaved, commemorate the cemetery where many of the freed are interred, and visit the site where Black people and white people worshipped together as early as 1775. The event took place on Saturday, June 15 at Bull Run Regional Park, located in Centreville.

The Juneteenth celebration included remarks from NOVA Parks Board Vice Chair Paul Baldino; Chair of Virginia NAACP’s Environment, Climate and Justice Committee Karen Campblin; Harris family representative Chrystal Gaskins; and many state and local elected officials. 

Girl Scouts from Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria led the procession to the location of the freedmen cemetery, where Janay Peebles Trent offered musical performances, NAACP Fairfax County Branch Religious Affairs expert John Dister provided a historic background of the cemetery, and guest speaker Bishop Brett Fuller provided a presentation. 

An ice cream social sponsored by Dominion Energy took place following the ceremony.

NOVA Parks discovered that more than 90 people are buried in the former Harris Family Cemetery, located at Bull Run Regional Park, using ground-penetrating radar. Interpretive signage unveiled at the 2022 Juneteenth celebration tells the story of Robert Carter III, who once owned the 65,000 acres of land. After converting to the Baptist faith, Carter built a church that was open to both Black and white residents of the area. Carter emancipated 500 enslaved people in the 1790s and allowed them to own land, resulting in a thriving Freedmen's community at Bull Run 70 years before the Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation. Those buried at the cemetery were descendants of enslaved people freed by Carter, including the parents of Alfred W. Harris, who served as Alexandria City Councilmember and State Delegate and chartered the first Virginia public college for African Americans. 

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day, marks the event on June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers told 250,000 enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, that the Civil War was over, and they were therefore free. The Emancipation Proclamation had declared that enslaved people were freed in 1863, but many states resisted it was not enforced until long after in many places. Celebrated since the late 1800s across the United States, Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021.

Visit novaparks.com/ParkHistory for information about Robert Carter III, the Harris Family Cemetery, and more stories uncovered in Northern Virginia regional parks.

The mission of the NAACP is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination. Founded on Feb. 12, 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest, largest, and most widely recognized grassroots-based civil rights organization. The Fairfax County branch of the NAACP began meeting in 1918 and was chartered in 1944. To learn more, please visit www.fairfaxnaacp.org.