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Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice, and Accessibility (DEIJA): Juneteenth

Celebrating Freedom Day

Celebrating Juneteenth

Juneteenth National Independence Day is a federal holiday observed on June 19th to commemorate the emancipation of people who had been enslaved in the United States.  It's also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, and Emancipation Day. It originated in Galveston, Texas and commemorates the anniversary date of the June 19, 1865 announcement by General Gordon Granger proclaiming freedom from slavery in the state of Texas. It should be noted that there were enslaved people in both Delaware and Kentucky until the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified later in the year, which abolished all slavery, nationwide.

Juneteenth is a time to come together to celebrate freedom, a founding principle of the United States.  Here are some ways communities and libraries celebrate Juneteenth: 

  • Many communities around the country hold Juneteenth celebrations, which include parades, picnics, parties, and concerts. Below you will find information about celebrations in the SCRLC region planned for this year;
  • Local libraries and museums might show movies and art exhibit that commemorate the date and history of Juneteenth
  • If you're looking for a quieter way to celebrate, support Black-owned businesses, stream a movie that tells the story of Black people by Black people, or read books by and about Black people (see our resources list).
  • If you're not familiar with Juneteenth, you can celebrate by learning its significance in American history.  There are many resources available at all education levels.

Local Events in 2023

Broome County

  • Binghamton
    • June 16, 6 pm to?, Black Excellence Awards, Double Tree by Hilton Hotel, 225 Water Street
    • June 1712:00 to ?, Assata Shakur Park, 50 Carroll Street
    • June 18, 5:35 pm, Flag Raising, Binghamton Rumble Ponies Game, Mirabito Stadium, Henry Street
    • June 19, 11:00 to 2:00, The Discovery Center of the Southern Tier, 60 Morgan Road

Cayuga County

  • Auburn
    •  June 17th, 11:00 to 6:30, City Hall and Booker T. Washington Community Center

Chemung County

  • Elmira
    • June 17, 12:00 to 4:00, Ernie Davis Park

Otsego County

  • Oneonta
    • June 17, 12:00 to ?, Neahwa Park, 15 James Georgeson Avenue

Steuben County

  • Hornell
    • June 17, 11:00 am to 3:00 pm, Veteran's Memorial Park at James Street

Tompkins County 

  • Ithaca
    • June 16, 11:00 to 3:00, Black Business Expo, Southside Community Center, 305 South Plan Street
    • June 17, 12:00 to ?, Festival, Southside Community Center, 305 South Plain Street
    • June 18, 5:30 to 11:00, Black Tie Affair, Emerson Suites, Ithaca College
    • June 19, 7:00 to 9:00 pm, Jubilee, The Downtown, 121 W. State Street

Have an event not listed? Let us know and we'll add it!

History of Juneteenth

The Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1963, and freedom was granted to Black people enslaved throughout the country.  However, it didn't apply in areas that were ruled by the confederacy that included the state of Texas.  Union soldiers went through the South reading small copies of the proclamation to everyone.  

On June 19, 1865, 2,000 Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger, arrived in Galveston Texas where Granger read the proclamation, thus formally informing the approximately 250,000 enslaved people in Texas that they were free.  Granger was a New Yorker from the hamlet of Joy in the town of Sodus, Wayne County.  The formerly enslaved people celebrated Emancipation Day on June 19th and it has become Juneteenth which is a celebration of Freedom and is our second Independence Day. 

The first Juneteenth celebration occurred on June 19,1866 in Galveston to mark the first anniversary of the announcement.   In the years that followed, Juneteenth celebrations included a return to Galveston to celebrate the announcement on June 19th and informing formerly enslaved individuals how to vote.  Now, celebrations are marked with block parties, cookouts, parades, musical performances and other public events.  

Juneteenth is known as Freedom Day, Emancipation Day and Juneteenth Independence Day among other names. Juneteenth became an official holiday in Texas in 1980 and many other states followed.  It became a federal holiday on June 17, 2021.  Opal Lee made it her mission to make sure it became a federal holiday by marching 2.5 miles (to mark the nearly 2.5 years from the signing of the proclamation to the announcement in Galveston) and petitioning to make it happen among other actions.  She was an honored guest at the ceremony where the law making it a federal holiday was signed by President Joe Biden.

Sources: Smithsonian Institute, National Museum of African American History and Cultural, New York State Parks and Historic Sites, Library of Congress

Books

Library Resources

New York Public Library - Juneteenth at NYPL

Library of Congress Digital Collection - Today in History - June 19

Smithsonian Institute, National Museum of African American History and Cultural - The historical legacy of Juneteenth.

New York State Parks and Historic Sites - Juneteenth Coming to Terms with Freedom.

Videos

This project is administered by the South Central Regional Library Council.