Juneteenth is a recognition and celebration of the end of slavery in the United States. A combination of the terms “June” and “nineteenth,” this holiday – taking place on June 19 – marks the date in which Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865, ensuring the freedom of all enslaved people in the state.
The arrival of the troops came two months after General Robert E. Lee surrendered in Appomattox, Virginia. Two years earlier, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Texas became the last Southern state to be formally notified of the president’s action that freed all enslaved people in Confederate states.
The 13th Amendment abolishing slavery was ratified on Dec. 6, 1865. The following year, the first celebration of “Jubilee Day” on June 19 was organized in Texas, which is now known as Juneteenth.
Juneteenth has been an annual celebration across the country, and it became a national holiday in 2021. Last October, the Board of County Commissioners also made it a county holiday, approving it unanimously. In 2022, it was recognized by Johnson County for the first time, on Monday, June 20, since June 19 fell on a Sunday.
Juneteenth was first celebrated as a state holiday in Texas in 1980, as “Jubilee Day.” Forty-one years later, in 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, establishing Juneteenth as a national holiday. The Kansas Legislature also recently signed a bill establishing it as a state holiday.
In 2022, Johnson County celebrated Juneteenth under the theme is “Learn the Past...Change the Future.” The celebration of Juneteenth in the county recognized the freedom for all through a variety of events.
The inaugural Juneteenth Observance event took place on Juneteenth in the Johnson County Square. This community event featured storytellers, poets, musical performers and more. Rewatch the entire event, streamed live through Johnson County's Facebook page.
Ongoing engagements through the Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center, Johnson County Library and within the community offered additional opportunities to learn more about Juneteenth, as well as the history of African-Americans in the United States.
Before Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education, another key civil rights ruling came in Webb vs. School District 90. Corinthian Nutter was a key witness in the lawsuit, which led to the integration of Johnson County schools.
Born in Missouri, black scientist and inventor George Washington Carver has ties to Olathe, Kan. Researchers believe Carver attended what was known as the Old Rock School, part of his nomadic quests for an education while school segregation was the norm.
The fight for educational rights dates back to the 19th century, when parents and students pushed for equal access to local schools. Third-grader Luella Johnson of Olathe was one of them, winning her case in Johnson County District Court in 1890.
An exhibition at the Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center, called “Redlined,” explores a housing practice that shaped our region while systematically disenfranchising the black community.
Redlining impacted black communities across the United States throughout the 1900s during the growth of suburban neighborhoods. This practice involved the private sector and the federal government supporting home purchases for some but not others – often keeping black Americans out.
This exhibit is open through January 7, 2023 and features an array of artifacts exploring redlining’s impact on Johnson County – including more than 120 images and large-scale visualizations. The museum is open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
The Johnson County Library is hosting a variety of events and activities in celebration of Juneteenth this year.
Walk and Read gives families the opportunity to engage with literature while getting their steps in, and a Juneteenth-themed display is posted this June.
Stories related to the freedom of all are June 13-30 at the Johnson County Square, Olathe, KS 66061. Families can read two stories together that are posted along the park’s path: “Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free” by Alice Faye Duncan and “Change Sings” by Amanda Gorman.
Throughout the month of June, the Library will also bring awareness of the holiday and commemorate through Storytimes, Book Discussions and Lectures. Join the Library by looking throughout the catalog for this icon:
The Johnson County Library has compiled several reading lists with books about Juneteenth, including the history of the holiday, the impact of slavery and the experiences of the African-American community. Explore the library's selections for a wide variety of age groups, hand-picked by librarians.
Courtesy of Leah Payne, Information Specialist, explore a collection of picture books with information about Juneteenth and the impact of slavery.
Courtesy of Kate McNair, Teen Services Coordinating Librarian, view library selections on the topic of Juneteenth and its history, geared toward teen readers.
Courtesy of Emma Fernhout, Youth Information Specialist, these early literature selections are perfect for parents to discuss Juneteenth with their young children.
Courtesy of Becky Carlton, Youth Information Specialist, this general library list is a good starting point for learning more about Juneteenth.
Courtesy of Chris Koppenhaver, Youth Information Specialist, this book list features literature for elementary-age kids that delves into Juneteenth and the history and meaning behind the holiday.
Courtesy of Gregg Winsor, Reference Librarian, see how librarians are celebrating Juneteenth with these June picks for their book groups, all about the African-American experience.