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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Freedom Jubilee Marks 150th Anniversary of Historic Church & African American Civil War Patriots

 The Friends of Bethel Trail will officially kick-off the commemorative "Bethel Heritage Trail" walking tour on Sunday June 30, 2013, starting at 3pm at "Soldiers Grove" (near the fountain) of the Capitol Complex located at Commonwealth Avenue in Harrisburg, PA.  The celebration is called the Freedom Jubilee, and will begin with a self-guided tour through the five locations where Historic Bethel AME Church once stood. The tour is followed by a 3:15pm ribbon cutting, then at 4pm, there will be a Historic Bethel Civil War Church Worship Service beneath a tent at “Soldiers Grove” featuring historic reenactments and singing by the Historic Bethel AME Church choir. The Freedom Jubilee will showcase an array of singers including: Rev. Lela Henderson, Ms. Diane Wilson, Mr. Ernest Tillman, The Bethel Mercersburg Choir, and the Lark Quartet. Rev. Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler, 52nd pastor of Historic Mother Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia, is the preacher and will join Historic Bethel AME Harrisburg Pastor Micah Sims, Dauphin County Commissioners Jeff Haste and George Hardwick, Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson, and State Representative Patty Kim as platform guests. Then at 5:30pm, there will be a "Farewell Procession" lead by USCT Color Guard and Troops in commemoration of the Harrisburg Militia march to the train station.

The new "Bethel Heritage Trail" tour features eight interpretive panels that make up the self-guided tour that follows the five landmark sites of the Historic Bethel AME congregation and community across Harrisburg's urban development. The “Bethel Heritage Trail“ stops include:  The Pennsylvania Railroad, the Harrisburg Forum, The State Capitol Fountain, the Justice Building, and the Fox Ridge. Each location is where Historic Bethel AME once stood and served as an anchor for a vital spiritual, enterprising, and social African American community. All have literally vanished from the landscape and have been replaced by historical markers along the newly created “Bethel Heritage Trail.”

Two panels at each of four locations along the pathway honor the service and legacy of the African American patriots of the Civil War. Historic Bethel AME Church, and its community, served the commonwealth and nation as centers of recruitment for the eleven Pennsylvania Units and the Massachusetts 54th, 55th, and 5th (as depicted in the 1989 feature film “Glory”). Documents and records reveal Bethel Harrisburg's members held recruitment rallies and spontaneous marches as young Black men set off to join the USCT at Camp William Penn in Philadelphia. The trail also highlights important and historic civic events in Harrisburg during the 50th anniversary - 1911, the 100th anniversary in 1961, and present day Civil War 150th commemoration years.

“June 30th's Freedom Jubilee marks both the inauguration of the "Bethel Heritage Trail" and the commemoration of the commitment of African Americans along the Bethel Heritage Trail as their sons, brothers, lovers, fathers, husbands, and friends went south to fight for freedom and unity,” says Lenwood Sloan, Creative Director of Freedom Jubilee. “We invite all communities to gather at the river in worship and praise, commemorating, reflecting, and remembering this great legacy.” The Friends of Bethel Trail say this program could not be possible without the generosity of its sponsors, Amtrak and Dauphin County Commissioners. Special thanks is also extended to the Honorable Linda Thompson, Mayor of Harrisburg.

A free self-guided map/brochure will be distributed at key locations along the trail and special guided walking tours will be provided through Labor Day.  For more information on Freedom Jubilee kicking off the "Bethel Heritage Trail" on June 30, 2013, at 3pm, call (717) 599-5188 or go to www.dauphincounty.org. All media inquiries should be directed to Leslie Patterson-Tyler via email Leslie@TylerMadePR.com or call (609) 247-2632