Honoring Juneteenth at the Free Library

By Inaara S. RSS Fri, June 9, 2023

Honor Juneteenth with the Free Library of Philadelphia! This year, we celebrate Juneteenth for the third time as a federal holiday, but it has been an important celebration for nearly 200 years!

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of the end of enslavement in U.S. history. Along with commemorating liberation and freedom, Juneteenth is a day that centers on and celebrates the experiences, family stories, histories, and continuous legacies of Black Americans. Juneteenth is a combination of two words, “June” and “Nineteenth,” and celebrates June 19, 1865, the day on which Black Americans in Galveston, Texas learned from Major General Gordon Granger and Union soldiers that they were now free and that the Civil War had ended.

The significance of Juneteenth as a holiday and a historic day in the United States cannot be emphasized enough. Juneteenth not only symbolized the end of enslavement for Black people in Texas but also represented a day of freedom in 1865 for the nearly 4 million enslaved Black Americans in the United States at that time. Juneteenth has had many names, including Black Independence Day, Emancipation Day, Juneteenth National Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, and Juneteenth Independence Day. Juneteenth’s cultural and historical impact on the story of the United States and the movement toward building a more just society is undeniable.

Despite Juneteenth’s historic and cultural importance, the journey to being recognized as a federal holiday has been long and challenging. It took community leaders and advocates like Ms. Opal Lee and politicians like Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, both Texan women, along with numerous community organizations and widespread public support, to get Juneteenth’s passage as a federal holiday.

We come together this Juneteenth, committing as a city and a nation to move toward a more inclusive and just society, to learn more about the history of enslavement in Philadelphia and across the country, and to honor the history and legacy of Black Americans’ fight for freedom and rights in the United States.

So many incredible events are happening in Philadelphia to celebrate Juneteenth, including the ODUNDE Festival, happening on June 11. You can also join the Free Library in its celebrations! Among our many programs which you can find on the events calendar, some featured activities include:

You can also browse the Free Library blog to find recipes and children’s book recommendations, explore our Juneteenth titles in the catalog, listen to an Author Events recording with Professor Annette Gordon-Reed about her book On Juneteenth, and much more on the Free Library’s website.

Happy Juneteenth to everyone, and we hope to meet you at one of many Juneteenth festivities happening at the Free Library!

Have a question for Free Library staff? Please submit it to our Ask a Librarian page and receive a response within two business days.

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