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June 19 is Juneteenth, a now-federal holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the U.S. Juneteenth commemorates the day that Union soldiers entered Galveston, Texas and announced to enslaved persons that they had been freed under the Emancipation Proclamation. The holiday also goes by many alternate names, including Black Independence Day, Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day, and Juneteenth Independence Day. In 2021, it became a federal holiday.

Click on the Juneteenth flag to learn about the symbolism behind it. Read on to learn more about the history of Juneteenth, the historical figures who worked to make Juneteenth a federally-recognized holiday, YDL and community events celebrating Juneteenth or discussing race relations, and resources for talking about race and racism.

 

What is the History of Juneteenth?

Juneteenth began on June 19, 1865. On this day, Gordon Granger, a Union general, and his troops entered Galveston, Texas, and announced to the soon-to-be-former slaves that they had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation.

However, the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863. Why weren’t the enslaved people of Texas freed until June of 1865?

Few Union troops had been able to enter Texas during the Civil War and for some time after Robert E. Lee surrendered and the Civil War ended. There weren’t enough Union troops to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. It wasn’t until General Granger and his troops entered Texas that the formerly-enslaved persons were told of their freedom.

General Gordon issued General Order Number 3, stating, “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”  However, the order also contained language stating the formerly-enslaved people shouldn’t expect government assistance or reparations for their enslavement, and encouraging former slaves to remain in their current homes and continue to work for those who had enslaved them as paid laborers.

The news of their freedom lead to celebrations for many freed people. Community celebrations and religious services are typically an important part of Juneteenth. Education about the history of slavery and its effects today is often central to the celebrations.

You can read this article to discover a more in-depth history of Juneteenth and learn about Juneteenth traditions.

Library Events

This display (running June 1-June 30) is a glimpse into the African-American experience. The images tell compelling stories of the struggles, strengths, triumphs, and hopes of an oppressed people.

You are welcome to view the display on the second floor at YDL-Whittaker Road during the month of June. The pieces will be on top of the low bookcases near the reference desk. 

 

This month’s virtual screening will explore what it means to be a young, Black, Democrat in the American South. While I Breathe, I Hope follows South Carolina politician Bakari Sellers as he campaigns to become the first African American candidate elected statewide in over a century.

After the viewing, La’Ron Williams, local storyteller and peace activist, will facilitate an open, honest discussion about race and racism.

Join us for lively discussions of books by African American Authors.

Juneteenth Display

Visit the Youth Department to learn more about Juneteenth and Black History by viewing our Juneteenth display. 

Celebrate Juneteenth with these Community Events:

Ypsilanti Juneteenth Celebration 2022

Celebrate Juneteenth with events all around Downtown Ypsilanti. Activities include a Juneteenth festival, a comedy set, and a concert celebration. This event is free and lasts June 18 & 19. Click here to learn more.

Virtual Program: Juneteenth: We the People

BLKFreedom Collective and PBS Books are proudly presenting this special event commemorating Juneteenth. BLK Freedom collective is a group of 10 nation-wide cultural and historical institutions. The event commemorates the perseverance, creativity, and innovation of Black Americans while highlighting the continued fight for racial equity. You can view the event thorough a Facebook livestream or watch through this YouTube link

Notable Figures

Below are 3 individuals who contributed to the creation of Juneteenth.

To find more information about Juneteenth and the contributions of Black Americans, scroll to the resources section.

Ben Haith

Ben Haith created the Juneteenth flag seen above. He is an activist and is the founder of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation.

Al Edwards

Al Edwards was a legislator for the state of Texas, representing Houston. One of Edward’s primary goals during his time as a state representative was to pass a law establishing Juneteenth as a holiday. He succeeded in 1980, when Juneteenth became a state holiday in Texas. Now, 45 other states and the District of Columbia have made Juneteenth a state holiday, including Michigan in 2020. Edwards passed away in April 2020, before Juneteenth became a federal holiday.

Opal Lee

Opal Lee is an activist and a crucial part of getting Juneteenth recognized as a federal holiday. In 2016, at the age of 89, Lee walked 1400 miles from Fort Worth, Texas to Washington, D.C. to encourage the creation of Juneteenth as a federal holiday. Lee has been referred to as, “the grandmother of Juneteenth.” She was in attendance when President Biden signed the law making Juneteenth a federal holiday. 

Resources

Discover events, resources, book lists, and useful links to learn about the African-American experience. 

When profound events happen in our world, we’re a space where our community can process, learn, and grow. The Black Lives Matter movement has inspired curiosity and action, and our librarians and library staff have worked hard to make sure we’re living up to our mission. We’ve created lists of books, movies, and activities for adults, children, and families that are designed to elevate the conversation and promote learning. 

Discover a wide variety of Juneteenth materials for checkout at YDL.

Learn about Black history and the contributions of African Americans with these materials available at YDL. 

In this episode of Ypsi Stories, Lee Azus explores the active and intentional roles of government and business in implementing and perpetuating discrimination. The impact of racism and white supremacy on housing from redlining maps, FHA underwriting policies, and racial restrictive covenants are still visible in the landscape around us.

This archive contains a collection of interviews of Ypsilanti residents who lived through the Jim Crow era, fought racism during WWII, and led the local Civil Rights movement.

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