Juneteenth in JoCo

Red, green and yellow stripes and black clenched fist

What is Juneteenth?

Black people march in an Emancipation Day Parade in Florida

Juneteenth has been celebrated throughout the United States for more than a century. It has included festivities such as this parade in St. Augustine, Florida in 1922.

The end of slavery in the United States

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 as an official holiday

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.

2022 Juneteenth celebration

County staff and community partners pose for a photo with the Juneteenth proclamation

The Board of County Commissioners recognized Juneteenth in Johnson County with a proclamation at the June 16 BOCC meeting.

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.

2022 Juneteenth Observance: A video recap

Black History in JoCo

Corinthian Nutter and the integration of Johnson County schools

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.

When George Washington Carver came to Olathe

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.

Luella Johnson and the struggle for equality

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.

Red and black logo for Redlined art exhibit.

Redlined Exhibit at Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center

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.

Learn More About the Exhibit

Panel with text from a book posted along a concrete path at a park

Activities at the Johnson County Library

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:

View the Library Catalog

Library Reading Lists

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.

Juneteenth in Picture Books

Courtesy of Leah Payne, Information Specialist, explore a collection of picture books with information about Juneteenth and the impact of slavery.

Juneteenth for Teens

Courtesy of Kate McNair, Teen Services Coordinating Librarian, view library selections on the topic of Juneteenth and its history, geared toward teen readers.

Celebrate Juneteenth with Your Little Ones

Courtesy of Emma Fernhout, Youth Information Specialist, these early literature selections are perfect for parents to discuss Juneteenth with their young children.

Juneteenth National Independence Day

Courtesy of Becky Carlton, Youth Information Specialist, this general library list is a good starting point for learning more about Juneteenth.

Juneteenth for Kids

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.

Juneteenth - Johnson County Library Book Group Selections 2022

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.