Juneteenth: Remembering the day slavery ended in the U.S.

The Yale campus will be closed in observance of Juneteenth, but a series of local events will offer opportunities to celebrate and reflect.
A Juneteenth Flag with Harkness Tower in the background

The Yale campus will be closed on Monday, June 19 in observance of Juneteenth, which many Black Americans consider “a second Independence Day,” but a series of local events will offer opportunities to celebrate and reflect on the meaning of the day.

On Saturday, June 17, the Yale African American Affinity Group (YAAA) and the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, which is part of MacMillan Center at Yale, will co-sponsor an event, “Juneteenth New Haven,” which will be held at the Connecticut Violence Intervention Center at 230 Ashmun St. in New Haven.

The free event, which will be held from noon to 6 p.m., will include displays of artifacts from African-American history, music and dance, arts and crafts, college essay/college preparation support, and employment resources. Free hot dogs and beverages will be available to the first 200 children. The social wellness of people of color inspired the theme for this year’s event: “Pan Africanism: Unified by History, Connected in Culture, and Focused on the Future.”

The event is hosted by the Descendants of the 29th Connecticut Colored Regiment, the Kiyama Movement, Hands on Moving and Storage, and the Amistad Committee Inc.

There will also be multiple Juneteenth-related events during New Haven’s International Festival of Arts & Ideas, which began last week and runs through June 25.

Saturday, June 17, noon, New Haven Green — “Juneteenth Celebration,” an event curated by Hanan Hameen, founder of the Artsucation Academy Network, and the Official Juneteenth Coalition of Greater New Haven. The event will kick off at 10 a.m. with a parade from the old Stetson Library (197 Dixwell Ave.) to the New Haven Green, and will feature a Juneteenth Market and performances. A concert by the Cold Crush Brothers, a pioneering hip hop group, will begin at 2 p.m.

Saturday, June 17, 7 p.m., Alexander Clark Stage, New Haven Green – “A Divine Homecoming” and performance by O’Sound. “A Divine Homecoming” is an intergenerational production that honors the history and legacy of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and imagines what might have happened if an 1831 proposal to create in New Haven what would have been the nation’s first institution of higher learning for Black students hadn’t been thwarted.

Sunday, June 18, 3 p.m., Alexander Clark Stage, New Haven GreenPerformances by Stefon Hawkins and Jarron Taylor. On the New Haven Green, New Haven’s Stefon Hawkins will perform with the New Hope Fellowship choir and gospel singer Jarron Taylor will lead a multigenerational community “all-sing.” All are invited to a masterclass with Taylor on gospel techniques.

Although Juneteenth has been commemorated in many African-American communities for more than a century, it didn’t become a federal holiday until 2021.

The holiday marks the anniversary of June 19, 1865, when Union Army soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to enforce the freedom of enslaved people there. While President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation more than two years earlier, enslavers in some parts of the country ignored it.

For those interested in learning more about Juneteenth, Yale’s Secretary and Vice President for University Life Kimberly Goff-Crews has shared learning resources on her office’s website.

Also, Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library holds a collection of films on American life in the 1920s recorded by African-American Baptist minister and filmmaker Rev. Solomon Sir Jones. The collection includes remarkable footage of a 1925 parade celebrating Juneteenth in Texas. The entire collection can be viewed online.

Since 2020, the Yale and Slavery Working Group, chaired by Sterling Professor of History David Blight, has been studying Yale’s own historical roles and associations with slavery, the slave trade, and abolition. The group shared some of findings — including details of the efforts by individuals in the Yale and New Haven communities to stop plans for the proposed institution of higher learning for Black students in 1831 — in a major academic conference in 2021, and continues to share ongoing work on its website as part of its effort to foster discussion, remembrance, and learning as both Yale and the nation continue to confront and illuminate their past ties to slavery and abolition.

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