Many people celebrate June 19 as the major holiday recognizing the emancipation of slaves in the United States.

But in Tennessee, another date has huge significance in the history of emancipation: Aug. 8.

That's the date that former Tennessee Gov. Andrew Johnson freed his slaves in 1863 - two years before the commonly recognized June 19 emancipation.

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Knoxville's Beck Cultural Center held its annual Eighth of August Jubilee on Saturday to celebrate the occasion.

"It's very important that young people know their heritage and where they came from," Beck Cultural Center board member Sam Anderson said. "Because history is us."

The event featured live music, food and other activities at Chilhowee Park.

According to the Beck Cultural Center's website, Chilhowee Park has an important role in the history of Aug. 8 as well.

During the time of segregation, the eighth was the one day a year that the park was open to African Americans. This continued until 1948.

On Saturday evening, the celebration continued with a 50-year anniversary tribute to the Austin East class of 1969. The grand finale was a motown concert at 8 p.m.


The Beck Center is a museum and cultural exchange located east of downtown Knoxville.

"The Beck Center is where African American history is stored for this community," Anderson said.

He went on to highlight the center's focus on local history, such as the significance of Aug. 8

"It's Knoxville's history, not national history, not world history, but the history of Knoxville, relative to the African American community," Anderson said.