June 19th is Juneteenth, a day set aside to commemorate the day Texas slaves first learned about emancipation, more than two years after President Lincoln signed the emancipation proclamation. Union army general Gordon Granger made the announcement in Galveston on June 19, 1865, making Texas the last state to hear the news. Juneteenth is not a widely known celebration but is a crucial piece of the complex series of announcements, documents and events that eventually lead to the passage of the 13th amendment:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

The Indianapolis Public Library's Center for Black Literature & Culture invites the community to the 2021 Book Fest & Juneteenth Celebration, on Friday, June 18 - a free webinar featuring local authors Brandon Warren, Januarie York & Andrew Bowman. Local entertainers will also be showcased. Get more details and register here.

In this 2013 NPR News interview What the Emancipation Proclamation Didn't Do, Lonnie Bunch III, historian, founding director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African-American History, and current Secretary of the Smithsonian, said the following about remembering the history of emancipation:

"Well, I think that on a very specific notion, I would love people to realize that African-Americans were agents in their own liberty. I think that that's an important piece, rather than simply the notion, if you look at the movie "Lincoln," it seems as if Lincoln freed the slaves, rather than it's part of a complicated nuanced puzzle that led to emancipation.

But, I think the other part that's so important to me about this moment is this is a moment for Americans to remember that you can believe in a change that you can't see. That the Emancipation Proclamation, slavery was something that everybody knew was going to exist forever except for a few fanaticals. But suddenly the Emancipation Proclamation began America on a trajectory that ultimately led to a fundamental change in citizenship and equality. And so what I hope is that people would realize that they have a right to demand and effect change because change is possible in this country."

Learn more about Juneteenth


Our streaming service called Kanopy has a curated collection of films that commemorate Juneteenth. If you have never borrowed from Kanopy before directions and a video tutorial are available.

Watch a video of Lonnie Bunch III, founding Director, lead a tour through the Slavery and Freedom exhibit to celebrate Juneteenth, highlighting stories behind some of the museum's most popular objects.

The Center for Black Literature & Culture Recording of the Online Book Fest discussion: Blacks and the Vote This online discussion includes the importance of voting, inspired poetry from local performers, and a moderated panel discussion about what voting means in today's America.



Read More in Depth:

IndyPL Recommends: Juneteenth Reads

Juneteenth is often celebrated by reading the works of prominent Black authors. Below, we have selected reads on the history of Juneteenth, emancipation and freedom, reconstruction, and celebration.

Hidden Black History : From Juneteenth to Redlining

Green, Amanda Jackson

What are important moments in Black American history that have not been part of our shared education and national narrative? Discover the people and events you didn’t know, until now.


The Story Behind the Celebration

Cotham, Edward T.

Tells the complex story of Juneteenth and the facts and legends that lead to what promises to become a national holiday.


Gordon-Reed, Annette

Author and historian Annette Gordon-Reed ‘s Pulitzer prize winning research skills reveal the history of Juneteenth, which she deftly pairs with her personal reflections on the history and politics that shaped her own experiences as a Black woman in Texas. A unique and fascinating memoir.