The Library will be closed this year on Friday, June 17 and Sunday, June 19 in honor of Juneteenth. Juneteenth celebrates the anniversary of the date June 19, 1865, in which enslaved people in in Galveston, Texas were informed of their legal emancipation. The Emancipation Proclamation was passed two and a half years earlier in January 1, 1863, but many who profited off of human trafficking and enslavement withheld this information for as long as they could. This celebration of freedom among newly emancipated people in Texas became more widespread, and the date became symbolic of the end of chattel slavery in the United States.
The holiday has been celebrated by many African Americans across the country since then, but Juneteenth did not become a federally recognized holiday until just last year in 2021.
Although Juneteenth evokes the atrocities of chattel slavery in the South, the land right here in which our libraries are located also holds the weight of a long history of slavery. Dutch settlers engaged in the human trafficking of people from the African continent from the very beginning, in the early 1600s, while colonizing the land of the Lunaape people. Not only did the system of chattel slavery begin here earlier than many other areas, it also ended later. New Jersey was the last Northern state to truly abolish slavery, with the last 16 enslaved people not freed until the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment on December 6, 1865 (six months after the people enslaved in Texas learned of their emancipation).
You can learn more about the abolitionist movement that created the conditions for emancipation with these texts:
- The ragged road to abolition : slavery and freedom in New Jersey, 1775-1865 / James J. Gigantino II
- The slave’s cause : a history of abolition / Manisha Sinha
- Fighting for freedom : abolitionists and slave resistance / Judith Edwards.
- The 1619 Project (full PDF provided by Pulitzer Center as an educational resource)
- Afro-Americans in New Jersey: a short history / Giles R. Wright
- Slavery and Abolitionist Movement (1790-1860) primary documents
To all those who celebrate, we hope that this weekend you can find time for joy, community, and continuing the struggle for Black liberation.