June 4, 2024

'Bell Affair' team, student researchers featured in Juneteenth events

Anna, Bell Affair Team
Craig Chandler | University Communication

Craig Chandler | University Communication
The filmmaking team behind "The Bell Affair," "Anna" and "The Diary of Michael Shiner" includes (from left) Kwakiutl Dreher, William G. Thomas III and Michael Burton. Their work will be featured as part of the University Libraries' Juneteenth events.

The University Libraries is hosting several signature events to commemorate and celebrate Juneteenth.

It is the third annual celebration the University Libraries have planned and sponsored, said Charlene Maxey-Harris, associate dean in the University Libraries. All events are free and open to the public, including admission to a film festival at the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center.

“Last year, we hosted the students of the Digital Legal Research Lab and their research findings of legal cases of freedom of enslaved people from Maryland, Missouri, and Nebraska to a captive audience,” Maxey-Harris said. “This year we are hosting the students again and adding a mini-film festival featuring the work of Dr. Kwakiutl Dreher, associate professor of English, women and gender studies, and ethnic studies. Libraries’ faculty librarians are also offering a workshop to the summer research students.”

Juneteenth is a federal holiday that commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the U.S. Juneteenth, the combination of “June” and “nineteenth,” is celebrated on the anniversary of General Order No.3 issued by Mayor General Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865. First celebrated in Galveston, Texas, Juneteenth has been observed nationally across the United States with a focus on celebrating African American culture.

The nation’s Juneteenth celebrations began as church-centered gatherings in Texas, then soon spread across the South, and finally proliferated nationally due in part to the Great Migration. Today, many celebrations include public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, the singing of traditional songs, readings of works by noted African American writers, as well as rodeos, street fairs, cookouts, and historical reenactments. In 2021, Juneteenth became the most recent federal holiday since the adoption of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.

Upcoming Juneteenth events offered through the University Libraries include:

“From the Director’s Chair: The Making of ‘The Bell Affair’ ” — A Brown Bag Lunch Pre-Talk

• 12:30 to 2 p.m. June 18 | Platte River Room South, Nebraska Union, City Campus

Kwakiutl Dreher, associate professor of English and director, screenwriter, and producer will take the audience behind the scenes on her involvement in the making of the team’s feature film “The Bell Affair,” to be screened at the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center on June 19. A question and answer session will follow.

Legal Fight for Freedom: Student Research

• 1 to 3 p.m., June 19 | Love Library South Auditorium (Room 102)

Katrina Jagodinsky, Will Thomas and students in the summer research program of the Digital Legal Research Lab will share research findings of legal cases of freedom from jurisdictions throughout the United States. Students will be encoding freedom suits in the weeks leading up to Juneteenth and will share those stories along with a discussion about the importance of building research models that bring such stories into a broader conversation about American history. This event will be recorded. Learn more about the Digital Legal Research Lab.

Animating History: Stories on the Making of Freedom at The Ross

• 7 to 9:30 p.m., June 19 | Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center

Sponsored by University Libraries and the Ross Media Arts Center, this Juneteenth festival will feature two films and a feature film. The screenings include “Anna,” “The Diary of Michael Shiner” and the film “The Bell Affair.” Each production is based on the award-winning book “A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War” by William G. Thomas. In his research, Thomas discovered enslaved families used the court of law to initiate freedom-making and how each family strives to achieve and maintain freedom. The event will include a post-screening Q&A with the filmmakers, which include Dreher, Thomas and Michael Burton. Learn more about the films and filmmakers.