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Celebrating and Reflecting on Juneteenth

Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day for Black Americans, is an annual holiday observing the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, enslaved Black people in Texas learned that slavery had been abolished in the Emancipation Proclamation--which was made January 1, 1863. It took nearly two-and-a-half years for the message of the end of slavery to reach and be enforced throughout the United States. White people who enslaved Black people in the American South--the Confederacy, during the Civil War--carried on enslaving Black people and forcing them to work after the Emancipation Proclamation, as well as for several months following the official end of the Civil War. Thus, as the National Museum of African American History and Culture states, “Juneteenth marks our country’s second independence day.”

We join the community in celebrating Juneteenth. Skokie Public Library, Skokie United, the Skokie Park District, and others are collaborating to observe this holiday with a celebration on June 18 and 19--more details coming soon. It is an occasion for celebrating freedom for all and for celebrating Black joy. It is also an opportunity to learn and reflect, both on the history of racial segregation and oppression in our community as well as the ongoing impact of racial prejudice today.

We also have ways to read, watch, listen, and discuss this month, such as the Zoom into the Movies discussion of Miss Juneteenth, which was included in our Black Joy on Screen movie list. Take a look at our reading lists for adults:

We’re creating additional lists and resources, so check back!

For more background on Juneteenth, read The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth from the National Museum of African American History and Culture and Growing Up with Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed for The New Yorker. Or watch This Is Why Juneteenth Is Important for America by The Root.

Examine the history behind the Skokie’s 1967 Fair Housing ordinance in our online exhibit, Fair Housing in Skokie, 1961-1971. There are many potential stories to tell about Skokie’s Fair Housing ordinance and the history of Black families in the community; this exhibit is structured around the materials in the library’s digital collection, Fair Housing in Skokie, 1961-1971 Digital Archive. This collection includes the unpublished memoir of the late Gwen Fortune, submitted to our archives with her son’s blessing by her editor, Barbara Clearbridge. This archive also includes records from the collections of both Don Perille and the Skokie Historical Society.