Commemorating Juneteenth: The Second Independence Day
Juneteenth originated in Galveston, Texas on June 19th, 1865 when Union Army General Granger issued General Order No. 3, relaying the news of the Emancipation Proclamation. This announcement for Texans came more than a month after the official end of the Civil War and more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was set to be enforced starting January 1st, 1863. In many places, including Texas, slavery continued long after that date. Juneteenth therefore represents the formal end of slavery in the U.S., and is also known as “Freedom Day” or the “Second Independence Day.”
On June 16th, 2021, Congress approved a bill declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday.
“Picnic At Emancipation Day Celebration, June 19, 1900” from Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.
For background information on Juneteenth and its significance, check out this fact sheet from the Congressional Research Service as well as the resources from the National Museum of African American History and Culture. For local Juneteenth events, check out Fordham News to see a listing of upcoming virtual and community-based events.
To commemorate Juneteenth, Fordham Libraries has put together a selection of resources highlighting music, first-person accounts from former slaves, and the gradual abolition of slavery in New York State.
Slavery in New York
“Freedom’s Journal. New-York, July 6. Abolition of Slavery. The Abolition of Domestic Slavery, in this state, was celebrated by a large and respectable body of our brethren, in this city, on the 4th inst. No public parade added to the confusion of the day; the arrangements for it, and the decorating of the house, showed a highly commendable spirit in the Committee of Arrangements; and evinced their discriminating taste.”
Image credit: Snippet from “Abolition of Slavery.” Freedom’s Journal, 6 July 1827, p. 6. See our Accessible Archives database to search for a full transcription of this article.
Reckoning with slavery and its legacy includes the North as well as the South. For this reason, Fordham librarians have complied a resource guide about Slavery in New York. The guide includes background reading, state laws outlining gradual emancipation, books available at Fordham libraries, and multiple digital primary source collections.
July 4th, 1827 was the first “Emancipation Day” marking the end of slavery in New York. An article in Freedom’s Journal described a community gathering on this day at the African Zion Church with a speech from abolitionist William Hamilton. Examine these primary sources directly, as well as additional Slavery in New York resources to learn more about abolitionist organizing in the 18th and early 19th century.
Thou hast loosened the hard bound fetters by which we were held; and by a voice sweet as the music of heaven, yet strong and powerful, reaching to the extreme boundaries of the state of New-York, hath declared that we the people of colour, the sons of Afric, are FREE! My brethren and fellow-citizens, I hail you all.-William Hamilton, from An Oration Delivered in the African Zion Church, on the Fourth of July, 1827, in Commemoration of the Abolition of Domestic Slavery in This State. New York: Gray & Bunce, 1827.
Learn about the role of music in Black resistance and protest traditions through:
- Listening to songs frequently associated with Juneteenth such as “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” and others through the database Music Online: American Music from Alexander Street Press.
- Searching the library catalog and our research guides to cast a wider net across our collections to find musical scores, audio recordings, and scholarly research on African American spirituals, jazz, hip-hop, and other types of music.
Explore testimonies of survival and resistance from enslaved individuals in their own words with these open access resources:
- Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1938 from the Library of Congress offers more than 2,300 first-person accounts of slavery and 500 photographs of former slaves.
- The Omar Ibn Said Collection from the Library of Congress holds 42 digitized documents in both English and Arabic from enslaved West Africans. The 1831 Arabic manuscript “The Life of Omar Ibn Said” is the centerpiece of the collection.
Image 3 from Said, Omar Ibn, 1770?-1863, Theodore Dwight, Henry Cotheal, Lamine Kebe, and Omar Ibn Said Collection. The Life of Omar ben Saeed, Called Morro, a Fullah Slave in Fayetteville, N.C. Owned by Governor Owen. [?, 1831] Manuscript/Mixed Material.
- The North American Slave Narratives collection from the Documenting the American South project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers autobiographical narratives from fugitive and former slaves published as broadsides, pamphlets, or books in English up to 1920. A highlight of this digital collection is the Guide to Religious Content in Slave Narratives that makes spiritual and religious content easy to find.
Whether it’s a day of celebration or a day of reflection for you, we hope some of these resources have piqued your interest in digging deeper on anti-racist topics at the library. Try the African American Studies research guide for additional resources and remember, you can always Ask a Librarian.
By Tierney Gleason, Reference & Digital Humanities Librarian