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Portland Public Library’s Commitment to Work for Racial Justice and Equity

posted: , by Heather Wasklewicz
tags: Adults | Teens

 June 19, 2020

In our more than 150-year history, Portland Public Library’s mission has been to promote a city of readers through access to learning and opportunities for the free and full expression of ideas by all. 

Portland Public Library is a central institution in Greater Portland that is accessible and free to all who seek its resources. However, the recent murders of Black men and women, magnifying years of racial injustice, impel us to recognize that PPL must take action to dismantle racism in our systems — education, healthcare, law enforcement, employment, and others — especially for the Black community and other people of color. 

To fully embrace the Library’s mission and live our values, we must examine and be accountable for our practices, internally and externally, and structure new ways forward. We commit immediately to: 

  • Review policies and change those that result in inequitable treatment of all who access the Library 
  • Intentionally develop the Library Board and Staff to reflect and magnify the rich diversity of our Greater Portland community 
  • Equip the Library Board and Staff for greater self-knowledge and understanding about their role in anti-racism 
  • Build collections that tell the many stories and images of our evolving community 
  • Initiate programs and dialogues that encourage broad and divergent perspectives to engage with one another and advance a community committed to equity and racial justice. 
  • Join with community partners in all sectors who share our commitment to actively identify and break down barriers to racial justice and equity 

Join us in our work to achieve racial and social justice. We will know we are living our commitment when we all hold each other accountable. 

Sarah Campbell, Executive Director

Peter Richardson, PPL Board of Trustees, President  



posted: , by Raminta Moore
tags: Adults | Seniors | Art & Culture | Genealogy
image scan of the Emancipation Proclamation

Emancipation Proclamation. Lithograph by L. Lipman, Milwaukee, Wisc., Feb. 26, 1864. Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.


Today marks the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery 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 slavery was abolished. According to, 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 slave owners 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 slaves 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.

Photo of Uncle Billy McCrew, freed slave

Billy McCrea, a former slave 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.

Currently only Hawaii, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana are the only states that do not celebrate Juneteenth.

Juneteenth Resources and Local Events:


  • PPL resources regarding Juneteenth and Emancipation.
  • For a list of African American parks from the National Parks Service, please click here.
  • For recordings of former Texas slaves, please click here.
  • For African American Culture in Maine, please click here.
  • For 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.



  • Juneteenth! with Janaesound, Rodney Mashia, B. Aull, Abdul Ali
    Fri, June 19, 2020, State Theatre Facebook   Doors: 8:00pm – Show: 8:00pm – all ages
  • The third and final installment in Maine Inside Out’s outdoor June performance series is a recognition and celebration of Juneteenth in Portland’s Congress Square Park. Hosted by the MIO Portland group, the event will feature the final performance of MIO’s original play “Unspoken Truth” along with original artwork created in partnership with the Maine Center for Electronic Music. Please come join us for the final performance of this powerful, bold play.
  • The Slave Liberation Project, Installation by Hi Tiger in honor of Juneteenth
    Friday, June 19th, 5:30 – 7:30 Engine, 163 Main Street, Biddeford
  • The National Museum of African American History & Culture’s virtual event, Juneteenth: A Celebration Of Resilience

Poetry 2020: “Homie” by Danez Smith

posted: , by Elizabeth
tags: Library Collections | Recommended Reads | Adults | Seniors | Readers Writers

Poet Danez Smith sings out poems of love and intimacy in their 2020 collection Homie. In the poem “my president” they affirm all those who are their people, supporting their mama for president and their grandma for president and trans girls for president and teachers and birds and neighbors who hold the door open for them when their arms are full of laundry and the dude at the pizza spot and the children who they’d elect too, like “jonathan, eleven /…blog writer, young genius, community activist, curls tight / as pinky swears, black as my nation i trust the world in his tender / blooming hands, i trust him to tell us which rivers are safe to drink / & which hold fish like a promise.”

There’s a whole Danez Smith world in this book, a world’s expanse of observation and feeling, life and motion, elegy and ode, and the nation they create in these verses is for their beloved friends, their fam. They call their loves. The morning is a soft shawl. Texts arrive at just the right time. Trees are slow green explosions. Their anthem is mighty.

An exerpt from a poem by Danez Smith

















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