Today marks the 156th anniversary of Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of enslavement in the United States. Two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, on June 19th, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger led Union soldiers into Galveston, Texas, with the news that the War was over and enslavement was abolished. According to Juneteenth.com, there are several guesses as to why the two year delay. Some speculate, that the messenger carrying the notice from the Federal government was murdered. Another theory assumes, that the information was withheld by enslavers hoping to continue to have labor for their cotton harvests.
Pres. Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the people of Texas, since there were few Union troops around at the time to enforce it. But, with the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee in April 1865 and the arrival of Gen. Gordon Granger’s regiment in Galveston, troops were finally strong enough to enforce the executive order. Newly freed men rejoiced, originating the annual “Juneteenth” celebration, which commemorates the freeing of the enslaved people in Texas.
Although Juneteenth has been informally celebrated each year since 1865, it wasn’t until June 3, 1979, that Texas became the first state to proclaim Juneteenth an official state holiday.
Billy McCrea, a former enslaved person who remembered the Union troops coming into Texas in 1865 and being told that he was free. Photo by Ruby Terrill Lomax, September 30, 1940.
“And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.”
~ President Abraham Lincoln, Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863
To find information on African American genealogy from the Library of Congress, please click here.
The Freedmen’s Bureau Project has compiled nearly 1.8 million records of men, women and children, searchable online. To use this database to find your African American ancestry, please click here.
For the “resolution recognizing the historical significance of Juneteenth Independence Day and expressing the sense of the Senate that history should be regarded as a means for understanding the past and solving the challenges of the future” by the 111th US Congress, please click here.
For the African American Biographical Database, collecting information on African Americans from 1790 – 1950, please click here.
The National Park Service has an interesting article on the Language of Slavery. Please click here.
Portland Juneteenth event continues community dialogue and engagement through active art making. Congress Square Park
Saturday, June 19, 2021 1pm – 5pm
with Janaesound, Mosart212, Ali Ali, Rodney Mashia
Saturday, June 19, 2021 8pm State Theatre Facebook
Black Feminisms Part I: Freedom Fête, Juneteenth Virtual Party
This virtual dance party explores musical innovation as part of the Black legacy.
Saturday, June 19, 2021 1pm – 5pm For more information, click here.
With heavy hearts, we at PPL share with you the loss of one of our own, Paul D’Alessandro, who died with his wife, Judy Montgomery, in a tragic car collision last week in Lewiston. obituary | article
Paul served as a Librarian at the Reference Desk here at PPL’s Main Library from 1985 until his retirement in 2008. He was deeply knowledgeable, he was kind, he was fun, and he served the community with total commitment. Paul and Judy were leaders in Maine’s libraries and we honor them for all the ways they helped Mainers through their library work and their community service.
PPL staff, past and present, send our deepest condolences to Paul and Judy’s friends and families. Bowdoin College, where Judy worked before her retirement, is hosting a Virtual Celebration of their lives on June 13 at 1pm. All are welcome.
Events of the Tulsa Disaster, Mary E. Jones Parrish – This file was derived from: Panorama of the ruined area tulsa race riots.jpg:, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=67180952
In the Greenwood District (also known as Black Wallstreet) of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Black 19-year-old, Dick Rowland, was accused of assaulting Sara Page, a white, 17-year-old elevator operator. While in custody, rumors spread throughout the city, that Rowland was to be lynched. While the mob of white men grew larger, a group of 75 Black men gathered to try and prevent the lynching. The sheriff, noticing the growing crowds, exclaimed that the situation was under control and asked the crowds to disperse and go home. While leaving, a white man tried to disarm of the Black men and somewhere within the melee, a shot was fired. At this point, all hell broke loose, and a gunfight ensued. At the end of the shootout, 10 white men and 2 Black men were killed. At the news of the deaths of the white men, white mobs began forming and then started rioting and looting in the Greenwood district. White men were being deputized by the sheriff and these men continued to riot and burn down black businesses. It is said that the National Guard flew over sections of the town, dropping firebombs onto buildings. The next day, June 1st at noon, the National Guard marched into the district and dispersed the mobs. Thousands of Black residents, now homeless, were marched into internment camps and held there for days without charges. Official reports cited that 68 people were dead due to the riots, only 2 of them white. The actual number of deaths could have been as high as 300, however the actual number may never be known. None of the insurance claims that were filed by Black residents were ever received causing even more economic devastation after the area was essentially leveled by fire. The current mayor of Tulsa has made it his mission to help search for mass graves, so that families may eventually find closure.
ONE HUNDRED years later, there are still MANY Americans who have never been told or taught about this tragedy.
On May 31 and June 1, 1921, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, mobs of white residents brutally attacked the African American community of Greenwood, colloquially known as “Black Wall Street,” in the deadliest racial massacre in U.S. history. Homes, businesses, and community structures including schools, churches, a hospital, and the library were looted and burned or otherwise destroyed. Exact statistics are unknown, but the violence left around 10,000 people homeless and as many as 300 people dead with many more missing and wounded. Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Cassandra P. Johnson Smith
Please click through the following links for more information on this often forgotten piece of American history.
The case for reparations (This essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic brought the spotlight back to the Tulsa Massacre in 2014 after years of history sweeping the matter under the rug. This link will bring you to the Maine Digital Library where you can read the full text of the article from anywhere in the state of Maine.)