Celebrating Federal Holiday Juneteenth

The freedom of African Americans from slavery in the U.S. in 1865 is celebrated on the holiday Juneteenth on June 19. Juneteenth is made up of the words ‘June’ and ‘nineteenth,’ and it is on this day that Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Texas more than 155 years ago to inform slaves that slavery had been abolished.

Federal Holiday

This year on June 17, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday. Juneteenth is now legally recognized as a federal holiday celebrating the liberation and independence of enslaved people in the United States.

History of Juneteenth

According to the official website of the historical event, Juneteenth is ‘the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.’ Other than marking a pivotal date of significance in American history, Juneteenth also serves as an opportunity for African Americans to cherish their culture and heritage.

The proclamation declaring the abolishment of slavery was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, in the nation’s third year of an ongoing civil war. Known as the Emancipation Proclamation, it declared that ‘all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State […] shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.’ Granger’s arrival at Texas was to enforce this decree, which had originally gone into effect two years earlier.

The news had come as a shock to more than 250,000 slaves in Texas who were unaware of it. On June 19, in the city of Galveston, Granger publicly read General Order No. 3, which stated: ‘The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.’

Granger’s arrival with the news stirred the air with jubilance and massive celebrations across the state. A former slave named Felix Haywood gave his recount of the first celebration in 1865 in the book “Lone Star Pasts: Memory and History in Texas” — ‘We was all walkin’ on golden clouds […] Everybody went wild […] We was free. Just like that, we was free.’

City of Sammamish's Juneteenth Proclamation

At the City Council meeting on June 15, 2021, Mayor Karen Moran representing the entire City Council proclaimed and signed the Juneteenth Proclamation: https://sammamishwa.civicweb.net/document/59014

King County Libraries Reading List

King County Libraries have compiled a resourceful and informative list of books to compliment this year’s celebration of Juneteenth.

View the list of recommended books from KCLS here:

Community Events Celebrating Juneteenth

There are many opportunities to celebrate Juneteenth, both virtually and in person. Here are just some of the events in the area.

Events hosted by the King County Library System

Saturday, June 19, 10:00 - 11:00 a.m. (Pre-recorded)
Juneteenth: Journeys of Remembrance Celebration

Saturday, June 19, 1:30 - 2:30 p.m.
Silver Kite Arts: Celebrating Juneteenth with Poetry

Community-Hosted Events

Friday, June 18th, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Juneteenth Celebration at the Village Green in Issaquah - Global Grub and Groove Series - Come for a celebration of Juneteenth to honor our African American neighbors. Bring your blanket or lawn chairs to the Village Green for live music by Michael Powers and delicious food from C. Davis Texas BBQ! The event is free to attend. Food is for purchase. Village Green: 2550 NE Park Drive Issaquah, WA 98029

Saturday June 19, 12:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Redmond - Honoring Juneteenth - EASTSIDE EMBRACE will partner with Eastside For All, Eastside Race & Leadership Coalition, the City of Kirkland, and the City Redmond for a celebration at the Redmond Downtown Park: 16101 NE Redmond Way. Black speakers, DJ, performances, a children's area, art raffle, and honoring local Black high school graduates.

Saturday, June 19, 2:00 p.m. (virtual event)
1619: Resistance / Resilience / Remembrance https://3365.blackbaudhosting.com/3365/tickets?tab=2&txobjid=0b0e9ec6-9764-447c-a2e0-410b7d62f802

Events and Festivities Hosted by the Northwest African American Museum

June 19, 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Juneteenth Freedom March
March starts on 22rd & Madison at 1pm; culminates at Jimi Hendrix Park at 3pm.

June 19, 8:00 p.m.
'Coded Bias' Film Showing and Discussion
Outdoors at Kirkland's Northlake Unitarian Universalist Church

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