Friday, June 19, 2020, is Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day for African Americans.
Juneteenth celebrates the freedom of more than 250,000 slaves at the close of the Civil War.
The celebration is based on events that occurred mainly in Texas. But it is now celebrated nationally and is recognized as a state holiday in 37 states of the United States, including New York.
The name Juneteenth is a portmanteau of June and nineteenth, a celebration that takes its name from the day Union troops, led by Major General Gordon Granger, arrived in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865, to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. Although the Proclamation had taken effect on January 1, 1863, it freed few, if any, slaves.
News of the war’s end and the executive order to end slavery did not reach Texas until two and a half years later, well after the Confederate Troops’ surrender at Appomattox.
Since emancipation, the Juneteenth holiday celebration has experienced a rise and decline amongst African Americans, due to various economic and societal forces beginning in the early 20th Century.
In the early years, little interest existed outside the African American community in participation in the celebrations. In some cases, there was outwardly exhibited resistance by barring the use of public property for the festivities.
The Depression forced many blacks off farms and into the cities to find work. In these urban environments, employers were less eager to grant leaves to celebrate this date, unless it fell on a weekend. Additionally, July 4 was the already established Independence Day holiday, and so a rise in patriotism among Black Americans steered more toward this celebration.
The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s yielded both positive and negative results for the Juneteenth celebrations. While it pulled many of the African American youth into the struggle for racial equality, some began to tie the Juneteenth holiday to the historical struggles of their ancestors, as opposed to their more recent struggle against the pernicious Jim Crow laws.
On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday in Texas through the efforts of African-American state legislator Al Edwards. Edwards successfully passed a bill granting state recognition to Juneteenth as an official holiday and emancipation celebration.
Today, Juneteenth is a time for reflection, rejoicing and self-improvement and planning for the future. It is a day, a week, and in some areas a month of family gatherings and celebrations.
Juneteenth has come to symbolize for many African Americans what the 4th of July symbolizes for all Americans: freedom.
Local Juneteenth Celebrations
This Saturday, June 20, from 10:00am – 5:00pm, Umoja Events will present the 11th annual Juneteenth NYC Festival: The 2020 “Curated Virtual Festival” experience.
“This year, we are focused on building up, supporting and encouraging our BUSINESS and TALENT community,” the organizers wrote on the event’s Facebook page. “Now that the statistics are out, everyone is seeing that the hardest hit communities are the African American and Latino areas (no surprise there). What are we doing about it is real question. To start we can invest in and support our community. Starting from Memorial Day with the African Festival, Juneteenth (Black Independence Day) and all the way through to Kwanzaa in December. We hope you will join us in our newly curated virtual experience.”
The Juneteenth NYC community festival is open and free to all ages. Attendees are asked to represent their cultural background by wearing an item that identifies their culture to encourage open conversation and a display of diversity.
What: Umoja Events presents the 11th Annual Juneteenth Celebration
When: Saturday, June 15, 10:00am – 5:00pm | To RSVP for the virtual festival, go here.
Friday, June 19, 2020 | 7-8PM
Laurie Cumbo, Majority Leader for the New York City Council.
Rosa Clemente, Organizer, Political Commentator, and Independent Journalist.
Robert Gangi, Executive Director of the Police Reform Organizing Project.
Moderated by BRIC TV Managing Editor Brian Vines.
WHAT: This Juneteenth, BRIC is hosting a virtual #BHeard Town Hall that will look at the state of freedom in Black communities as they grapple with COVID-19, benign neglect, and state-sanctioned violence.
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of enslavement in the United States. Since June 19th, 1865 the day has emphasized education, achievement, and reflection on African-American freedom.
Airing on YouTube Live, BRIC will bring together artists, activists, change-makers, and stakeholders for community and conversation.
In honor of Juneteenth, City Councilmember Farah Louis, in partnership with Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams and Majority Leader/Councilmember Laurie A. Cumbo, will host an inaugural FREEDOM DAY RALLY on Friday, June 19.
WHAT: Freedom Day Rally
WHEN: Friday, June 19, 2020, 10:00am – 12:00pm
WHERE: The group will gather on the steps of the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Branch, located at 10 Grand Army Plaza