June 15, 2021
CITY OF GREENFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS
Greenfield Human Rights Commission
As individuals, citizens and residents of Greenfield, and members of the Human Rights Commission (HRC) of Greenfield, we proclaim our active support and engagement with the upcoming annual holiday of Juneteenth.
Each year, Juneteenth – also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day – commemorates and celebrates the anniversary date of the June 19, 1865 announcement by Union Army General Gordon Granger, proclaiming freedom from slavery in Texas. Juneteenth was made a legal holiday here in our Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as proclaimed by Governor Baker in 2020. Currently, Juneteenth is recognized in forty seven states across the United States.
Residents, friends, and allies throughout our city and across Franklin County are actively engaged in the spirited work of confronting our American legacy of racialized violence and injustice. The Human Rights Commission of Greenfield wishes to acknowledge this holiday, its meaning, and the ongoing reparations work being done in efforts to reckon with the lasting impact of slavery and racial bias in the United States. The struggle to build and maintain civil rights, human rights, justice, equity, and inclusion in every realm of our lives in our city is ongoing, and the HRC is committed to advocating for the rights of citizens of Greenfield.
The Human Rights Commission of Greenfield supports and encourages residents to learn, to get involved, and to find your way to become active in sharing in the importance of Juneteenth. We believe that this is a holiday to be celebrated by all people in recognition of the end of legal slavery in our country, even as we continue the work of confronting the challenges that remain. It is one step toward healing our world.
Out of an abundance of precaution due to the coronavirus pandemic, we are unable to celebrate Juneteenth as we as a HRC would like to and of which it is deserving. The Human Rights Commission of Greenfield looks forward to a near future when celebrations of our equality can be held together, in community. The vision for our future holds that Consideration for human rights is integrated into every decision made in the city of Greenfield and every citizen is empowered to advocate for the protection of their rights and the rights of others.
Compiled by Daniel Cantor Yalowitz, Ed.D. (Vice Chair, Human Rights Commission of Greenfield)
Juneteenth (June 19th each year) is also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day. It is a holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States. Originating in Galveston, Texas, it is now celebrated annually throughout the United States, with varying degrees of “official” recognition. It is commemorated on the anniversary date of the June 19, 1865 announcement by Union Army General Gordon Granger, proclaiming freedom from slavery in Texas.
President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had officially outlawed slavery in Texas and the other states in rebellion against the Union almost two and a half years earlier. Enforcement of the Proclamation generally relied in the advance of Union troops. Texas, being one of the most remote of the slave states, had a low presence of Union troops as the U.S. Civil War ended; thus enforcement there had been slow and inconsistent before Granger’s announcement. Although Juneteenth generally celebrates the end of slavery in the United States, it was still legal and practiced in two Union border states (Delaware and Kentucky) until later that year when ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished chattel slavery nationwide in December of that year.
Celebrations date to 1866, at first involving church-centered community gatherings in Texas. It spread across the Southern U.S. and became more commercialized in the 1920s and 1930s, often centering on a food festival. During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, it was eclipsed by the struggle for postwar civil rights, but grew in popularity again in the 1970s with a focus on African American freedom and arts. By the 21st century, Juneteenth was celebrated in most major cities across the United States. Activists are campaigning for the United States Congress to recognized Juneteenth as a national holiday. Hawaii, North Dakota, and South Dakota are the only states that do not recognize Juneteenth, according to Congressional Research Service.
Modern observance is primarily in local celebrations. Traditions include public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, singing such traditional songs as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and reading of works by noted African American writers such as Ralph Ellison and Maya Angelou, among many others. Celebrations also include rodeos, street fairs, cookouts, family reunions, park parties, historical reenactments, and “Miss Juneteenth” contests. The Mascogos, descendants of Black Seminoles, who escaped from U.S. slavery in 1852 and settled in Coahuila, Mexico, also celebrate Juneteenth.