A screening of the recent film “Sugarcoated Arsenic” will take place on June 20 in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and of “Juneteenth,” the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery. Sponsored by the University of Virginia Library’s “Common Ground Community,” the film, which explores African-American life during the 1970s at the University, will be shown at 3 p.m. in the Clemons Library’s Viz Lounge.
“Sugarcoated Arsenic” was co-created by two College of Arts & Sciences faculty members, filmmaker Kevin Jerome Everson, a professor in the McIntire Department of Art, and Claudrena Harold, an associate professor in the Corcoran Department of History, and the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies. Harold will be on hand to talk about the film after the screening.
The film conveys its message through the words and legacy of the late Vivian Verdell Gordon, director of U.Va.’s black studies program between 1975 and 1980. Erin Stewart, a professional actress and graduate of the U.Va. Department of Drama, stars as Gordon in re-enacted, documentary-style footage.
Common Ground is a community at the University Library that exists to promote a culture of diversity among the library staff through educational and celebratory events throughout the year. The group, according to member and video reserves coordinator Arlyn Newcomb, seeks to create a climate in which all can delight in their differences and explore their similarities, finding the common ground where people can stand in unity.
Juneteenth dates back to 1865, when on June 19th, Union soldiers, led by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. This was 2½ years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which had become official Jan. 1, 1863.
Virginia is one of 30 states officially observing Juneteenth. Almost all states, and several other countries, celebrate with events such as parties, picnics and a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation.