On June 19, 1865, news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally arrived in the last reaches of slavery in Texas, nearly two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation had, de jure, taken effect. Slavery would still continue in some slave states that had remained in the Union, and slavery’s official end with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment would not occur until December 1865. However, freed slaves in Texas and their descendants began annual celebrations of the anniversary of the arrival of the news, which they designated with the name Juneteenth. Beginning with Texas’s establishment of Juneteenth as a state holiday in 1980, more states have come to have some sort of official recognition of Juneteenth, and the holiday entered the consciousness of the larger American public in the summer of 2020, during the nationwide demonstrations for racial justice and equity, and there is a growing movement to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.
At Syracuse University, we will officially observe Juneteenth on Friday, June 18; administrative offices will be closed in its observance. To commemorate Juneteenth, each day beginning June 1 through June 19, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, in partnership with the Syracuse University Libraries, will list a new daily resource for those who seek additional information on the holiday and its historical significance and impact.
We invite students, faculty and staff to participate in these 19 days of reflection by engaging with the selections provided below.
This Juneteenth Excerpt by Jermaine Thibodeaux & Daina Berry from the University of Texas at Austin discusses the historical context of Juneteenth and how it is celebrated throughout the United States. Source: Carlos E. Cortés. (2013). Multicultural America : A Multimedia Encyclopedia. SAGE Publications, Inc.
Marcia Chatelain, professor of history and African American studies at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., discusses the history, misconceptions, evolution, importance and future of Juneteenth.
This Juneteenth excerpt by Sowandé Mustakeem discusses the historical context of Juneteenth in additional detail. From: Encyclopedia of Emancipation and Abolition in the Transatlantic World.
Dr. Tamika Nunley, associate professor of history, comparative American studies, and law and society at Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio, discusses five things you might not know about Juneteenth.
A speech delivered by Frederick Douglass on July 5, 1852, in Corinthian Hall, Rochester, New York, addressing the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence. From: Frederick Douglass (1855) My bondage and my freedom.
John Henry Faulk interviews former slaves about their experiences in and out of slavery.
Examining and rediscovering the physical record of the 1865 Handwritten Union Army order that brought emancipation to enslaved people in Texas. From: Fortin, J. (2020, Jun 19). “The 1865 Handwritten Order Marking Juneteenth Has Been Found.” The New York Times.
Audio recordings from the Library of Congress of freed people sharing their lived experiences in remembering slavery.
This article details the history of Juneteenth celebrations from the purchase of Emancipation Park in Houston, Texas, the Civil Rights Movement, to Juneteenth becoming an official state holiday in Texas on Jan. 1, 1980. From: Celebrating Freedom: History of the Celebration of Juneteenth. (2001, Jun 20). Los Angeles Sentinel.
This series of videos raises awareness of Juneteenth with highlights from musical performances from the ABC TV show Black-ish season four premiere.
Anthony Greene, associate professor of African American studies and sociology at the College of Charleston, Charleston, S.C., discusses historical origins, cultural awareness, how Juneteenth is celebrated in African American communities, and the importance of continuing to recognize and observe Juneteenth. From: African American Studies Professor Explains History of Juneteenth. (2018, Jun 19). US Fed News Service, Including US State News.
Karlos K. Hill, associate professor and chair of the Clara Luper Department of African and African American Studies at the University of Oklahoma, explores why all Americans should honor Juneteenth by discussing its history and influence today.
Closer to Freedom: enslaved women and everyday resistance in the plantation South by Stephanie M. H. Camp
An examination of the everyday containment and movement of enslaved men and, especially, enslaved women, including the movement of bodies, objects and information. The book explores the multi-dimensional and hidden culture of slave resistance.
Nicole Ellis, host, writer and producer for the Washington Post, interviews and discusses the impact of Juneteenth and how it is the backdrop for the value of Black lives.
Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the end of slavery by Deborah Willis, Barbara Krauthamer
In commemoration of the 150th anniversary, this book collects 150 photographs—some never before published—from the antebellum days of the 1850s through the New Deal era of the 1930s, displaying the seismic impact of emancipation on African Americans born before and after the Proclamation, providing perspectives on freedom and slavery. Envisioning Emancipation illustrates what freedom looked like for black Americans in the Civil War era. From photos of the enslaved on plantations and African American soldiers and camp workers in the Union Army to Juneteenth celebrations, slave reunions, and portraits of black families and workers in the American South, the images in this book challenge perceptions of slavery with powerful images of lives too often ignored or erased from historical records.
A conversation with Dr. Sherrill D. Wilson, urban anthropologist, former director of the Office of Public Education and Interpretation at the New York African Burial Ground Project and professor at Manhattan College, alongside Kenneth C. Davis, author of the “Don’t Know Much About History” series and In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives (Henry Holt and Co, 2016), talk about the legacy of Juneteenth.
Juneteenth Texas reflects the many dimensions of African American folklore. The personal essays are reminiscences about the past and are written from both black and white perspectives. They are followed by essays which classify and describe different aspects of African American folk culture in Texas.
Nicka Sewell-Smith, professional genealogist presents “Freedom Redefined: Juneteenth Commemoration” as she explores the legacy of Juneteenth through historical documents from Ancestry.com.
With the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade in 1808, many African Americans began calling for a day of public thanksgiving to commemorate this important step toward freedom. During the ensuing century, black leaders built on this foundation and constructed a distinctive and vibrant tradition through their celebrations of the end of slavery in New York State, the British West Indies, and eventually the United States as a whole, Festivals of Freedom explores the multiple functions and contested meanings surrounding African American emancipation celebrations from the abolition of the slave trade to the fiftieth anniversary of U.S. emancipation.
Mr. Hari Jones, who was an historian, author, military analyst, and curator of the African American Civil War Museum, tells the Juneteenth story of how and why African American’s fought in the Civil War.
The abolition of slavery after the Civil War is a familiar story, as is the civil rights revolution that transformed the nation after World War II. But the century in between remains a mystery: if emancipation sparked ‘a new birth of freedom’ in Lincoln’s America, why was it necessary to march in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s America? Stony the Road uncovers the roots of structural racism in our own time, while showing how African Americans after slavery combated it by articulating a vision of a ‘New Negro’ to force the nation to recognize their humanity and unique contributions to the United States.
Summary of the origins and lyrics of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” commonly referred to as the Black National Anthem.
Musical group Committed sings Lift Every Voice and Sing in acapella.
My Face Is Black Is True: Callie House and the struggle for ex-slave reparations by Mary Frances Berry
My Face Is Black Is True resurrects the forgotten life of Callie House (1861-1928), ex-slave, widowed Nashville washerwoman and mother of five who, seventy years before the civil rights movement, headed a demand for ex-slave reparations. House sought African American pensions based on those offered Union soldiers and targeted $68 million in taxes on seized rebel cotton (over $1.2 billion in 2005 dollars), demanding it as repayment for centuries of unpaid labor, despite facing recrimination from the U.S. Department of Justice and Postmaster General and even opposition from some African American newspapers.
See what NCAA staff members say when asked what Juneteenth means to them.
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
The Fire Next Time galvanized the nation, gave passionate voice to the emerging civil rights movement, and still lights the way to understanding race in America today. At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin’s early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document from the iconic author. It consists of two “letters,” written on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, that exhort Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism.
This article explains the history of the Juneteenth Flag.
Come Juneteenth by Ann Rinaldi
In this novel, Sis Goose is a beloved member of Luli’s family, despite the fact that she was born a slave. But the family is harboring a terrible secret. And when Union soldiers arrive on their Texas plantation to announce that slaves have been declared free for nearly two years, Sis Goose is horrified to learn that the people she called family have lied to her for so long. She runs away–but her newly found freedom has tragic consequences. Interwoven with the story is the chronology of events that led to the creation of Juneteenth as a day of celebration.
This article explains how Juneteenth can be explained and explored for children to understand the meaning and significance of this important observance.
Juneteenth: a novel by Ralph Ellison
Shot on the Senate floor by a young Black man, a dying racist senator summons an elderly Black Baptist minister from Oklahoma to his side for a remarkable dialogue that reveals the deeply buried secrets of their shared past and the tragedy that reunites them.
University of Texas at Arlington professor, Cedrick May and graduate student Julie McCown discovered the poem of Jupiter Hammon, an 18th century slave, who wrote the 1786 “An Essay on Slavery.”
An essay on Slavery, with justification to Divine providence, that God Rules over all things, written by Jupiter Hammon.
In this collection featuring the landmark essay “The Case for Reparations” Ta-Nehisi Coates reflects on race, Barack Obama’s presidency and its jarring aftermath–including the election of Donald Trump. “We were eight years in power” was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. In this collection of essays, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time: the unprecedented election of a black president followed by a vicious backlash that fueled the election of the man Coates argues is America’s “first white president.” This book also examines the new voices, ideas, and movements for justice that emerged over this period–and the effects of the persistent, haunting shadow of our nation’s old and unreconciled history.
See what Juneteenth means to members of the National Association For the Advancement of Colored People Houston Chapter.
In August 2014, twenty-nine-year-old activist DeRay Mckesson stood with hundreds of others on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, to push a message of justice and accountability. These protests, and others like them in cities across the country, resulted in the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement. In On the Other Side of Freedom, Mckesson offers a new framework and language for understanding the nature of oppression, laying down the intellectual, pragmatic, and political framework for a new liberation movement. Continuing a conversation about activism, resistance, and justice that embraces our nation’s complex history, he dissects how deliberate oppression persists, how racial injustice strips our lives of promise, and how technology has added a new dimension to mass action and social change. He argues that our best efforts to combat injustice have been stunted by the belief that racism’s wounds are history and suggests that intellectual purity has curtailed optimistic realism.
A poem by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, late 19th and early 20th century American poet, novelist.
This essay discusses the celebration of Juneteenth in the year 2020 as commemorating Black freedom and resilience, while continuing to fight for justice, equality, and equity. From: Stewart (2020). “Essay: Celebrating Juneteenth in 2020 Is an Act of Resistance.” Texas Monthly.
A Live Performance of “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou. Angelou, M. (1978), “Still I Rise,” in “Still I Rise: A Book of Poems,” New York, Random House Publishing.
June 19 – Juneteenth 2021
This article discusses the observance of Juneteenth for African Americans as a paradox of jubilation and sorrow. From: Jackson (2020). “Black Joy—Not Corporate Acknowledgment—Is the Heart of Juneteenth”. The Atlantic.
The above links discuss how to celebrate Juneteenth in the workplace, community, and at home.