Great Reads

Juneteenth: Celebrating Emancipation and Liberation

June 18, 2020


What is Juneteenth? 

Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 that word finally reached Galveston, Texas that slavery was outlawed, two years after it was officially declared, and the people who were enslaved were now free. It is a celebration that began in Texas, but has spread across the nation to mark the end of slavery and celebrate emancipation. Today, Juneteenth, or Emancipation Day, is held as a day of celebration of African American freedom and achievement. Texas and some other states recognize Juneteenth aa state holiday (Gov. Cuomo signed an executive order to declare today a state holiday, but it is not yet enshrined in law), but it has not yet become a federal holiday. This year, many are taking the day to participate in actions to fight white supremacy—a lasting legacy of slavery.  


How have people observed Juneteenth on the Lower East Side?  

The M’Finda Kalunga Community Garden, founded on the Lower East Side in 1983, was named in memory of the second African American burial ground, after the first burial ground was closed in 1795. The garden acts as a place for community members to express care for their community and as a site for gatherings and celebrations. As such M’Finda Kalunga has hosted an annual Juneteenth celebration complete with live music, poetry, and arts and crafts. This year large gatherings cannot happen, but many celebrations have moved online—some from LES establishments.  


Where can I learn more?


How can I celebrate?