Jubilee Turns 40

By: Lois Carlisle

Historic Jubilee Photo

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Jubilee: Festival of Black History and Culture, making it the longest-running festival in recent Columbia history.

Since 1978, Columbians have gathered on the grounds of the Mann-Simons Site at the corner of Richland and Marion streets to celebrate African American culture, cuisine and creativity. This year, we’d like to kick off our celebration of 40 years by looking back at four decades of Jubilee.

"I kind of see it as a way that community not only comes together and supports each other, but continuously grows. I think the impact of that is it's kind of like a family reunion of sorts."

— Porchia Moore, Our Story Matters

Over the years, Jubilee has worn many hats—it celebrated the Harlem Renaissance in 1981 with a tribute to black poets and musicians of the 1920s. In 1986, we spiced things up with a year dedicated to Caribbean culture and cuisine. In the 1990s, a major emphasis was placed on education and hands-on workshops, which included butter churning, quilting and rug-making.

In 1999, the festival ran for two days in September. The first evening was marked by a jazz quartet at the Seibels House followed by a performance of Five Guys Names Moe by the Workshop Theatre.

"We love to get together to sing and dance to relieve some of the toil of the week, of the time. But more importantly, we have explored our history more, explored our practices; to highlight them, to give them meaning in the larger society as well as, and particularly, for ourselves."

— Marjorie Hammock, Jubilee Co-founder

That same year, the festival spread out across all of Historic Columbia’s sites and included hayrides, a drumming workshop, sweetgrass basket demonstrations, walking stick carving lessons, an art expo and auction, a local blacksmith, and a reenactment camp operated by the 10th Cavalry-United States Cavalry, otherwise known as the “Buffalo Soldiers,” on the grounds of the Robert Mills House.

While other festivals have come and gone over the last 40 years, Jubilee has remained as a welcoming beacon each fall. We can’t wait to see what the next forty years brings!

"Jubilee is a part of my history, it's a part of my kids' history and it's also a reminder of the achievements of African Americans in Columbia and in Richland County."

— Carla Daniels, Jubilee Committee