History Of Juneteenth
Unify. Educate. Illuminate.
Historians cite three scenarios that might have resulted in it taking two and a half years for enslaved people in Texas to learn they were free. In the first, the delay was orchestrated to keep slave labor on the plantations. The second scenario claims that the messenger entrusted with delivering the emancipation message was murdered enroute. The third scenario speculates that union soldiers deliberately took their time communicating the news so that cotton farmers could reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest.
No matter which version you believe, the importance of June 19, 1865 cannot be overstated.
Tens of thousands of Black soldiers had joined the Union army to fight for their freedom and thousands of them died for the ideal. But it wasn’t until Major General Gordon Granger reached Galveston and assumed jurisdiction over the state of Texas that the fruit of their service was actually realized.
Even though Granger’s news was met with resistance and punctuated by the rampant murders of newly-freed slaves, the people turned those continued hardships into a reason for celebration. Freedom, for all it cost, was still a precious right to be celebrated. Black people have been celebrating Juneteenth—also called Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, and Emancipation Day—the end of slavery, their strength, and the promise of freedom for 155 years.
Currently, 47 states and the District of Columbia celebrate Juneteenth, a portmanteau or word created from the combination of June and nineteenth. Illinois recently became the 47th state to advance legislation to make Juneteenth a paid state holiday; Cook County led the way with an ordinance amendment that passed unanimously in December 2020. Efforts are underway nationally to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, an objective that has gained traction in the light of the civil unrest that has punctuated the past year.
LaCreshia Birts, Malik Lee, and Lonette Sims form the Black Remembrance Project (BRP) to memorialize historic Black events:
- 400th year anniversary of the forcible enslavement of Black Americans in the US, beginning in 1619
- 100th year anniversary of the Chicago Race Riot of 1919
- 50th year anniversary of Chairman Fred Hampton’s assassination by Chicago Police in 1969
BRP hosts an International Day of Remembrance for the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade commemorative event in Bronzeville featuring speakers Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. and Kamm Howard, national co-chair of N’COBRA, and performances by local Black artists.
BRP supporters stage a celebratory protest in Pritzker Park downtown to make Juneteenth a holiday.
The Black Culture Week’s annual Juneteenth programming features a panel discussion on Reparations for Black American Slavery Descendants hosted by TJ Crawford, founder of the initiative.
BRP meets with 49th Ward Ald. Maria Hadden to press for passage of Juneteenth legislation.BRP meets with 49th Ward Ald. Maria Hadden to press for passage of Juneteenth legislation.
BRP meets with 49th Ward Ald. Maria Hadden to press for passage of Juneteenth legislation.
The Chicago Juneteenth Coalition emerges from an alliance between the Black Remembrance Project and Black Culture Week.
Torrence Gardner and Tiffany Liner of Ald. Hadden’s office draft and introduce the first ever legislation aimed at making Juneteenth a citywide holiday.
More than 40 Chicago City Council members sign on as co-sponsors when the legislation is filed.
The Original Chicago Juneteenth Legislation (Ordinance)
Despite internal pushback and amid COVID-19, the City Council passes a resolution acknowledging Juneteenth. The resolution is the Council’s first symbolic recognition of Juneteenth.
Heightened demands to make Juneteenth a paid holiday prompts both County Commissioner Dennis Deer and County Commissioner Stanley Moore to introduce separate ordinances to the County Board. To avoid duplicating effort, they merge the two ordinances and introduce a single ordinance for the Board’s consideration.
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) Board of Commissioners passes a resolution recognizing June 19 as Juneteenth.
An ordinance amendment (File # 20-3460) recognizing Juneteenth as a Cook County holiday was sponsored by Cook County Commissioners Stanley Moore, Dennis Deer, Alma E. Anaya, Luis Arroyo Jr., Scott R. Britton, John P. Daley, Bridget Degnan, Brandon Johnson, Bill Lowry, Kevin B. Morrison, Deborah Sims, Larry Suffredin, Donna Miller and Frank S. Aguilar.
BRP obtains signatures from 5,000 Chicagoans demanding the City make Juneteenth a day of observance in November.
BRP celebrates a victory: the City of Chicago’s first Juneteenth Day of Observance
The Cook County Board of Commissioners approves by unanimous vote an ordinance amendment making Juneteenth a county holiday.
County Commissioners Deer, Moore, and Lowry and Wynona Redmond, president of Wyn-Win Communications, begin envisioning what Cook County’s first Juneteenth Celebration could look like.
Commissioner Deer and Wyn-Win President Wynona Redmond conceptualize a joint Juneteenth website that would serve as an information and event portal connecting residents throughout the city of Chicago, Cook County, and the State of Illinois on all things Juneteenth.
State Rep. LaShawn K. Ford (D8th) files HB 3922 to make Juneteenth, National Freedom Day, observed annually on June 19 as a holiday throughout the state.
State Sen. Kimberly A. Lightford (D4th) introduces SB 1965, a bill to make Juneteenth a state holiday.
Pepsico agrees to become the first sponsor of the Juneteenth Coalition initiative.
SB 1965 passes the Illinois Senate Executive Committee.
The Cook County Juneteenth Joint Planning Committee holds its first meeting.
Illinois Senate passes SB 1965, sends bill to the Illinois House Rules Committee.
Rep. Ford becomes House Sponsor of SB 1965.
The Juneteenthillinois.com web portal goes live.
State, county, and city legislators and community groups are expected at Daley Plaza to attend the first ever Juneteenth and Black Flag Raising Ceremony at 10 AM.
A weeklong observance of Juneteenth liberation, celebration, and equity begins!
Caravan March kicks off at 2 PM from Garfield Park, 4301 W. Washington Boulevard, to the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Museum, 10406 S. Maryland Avenue.