Happy Juneteenth from the San Diego County Library! Juneteenth, or Freedom Day, is an annual celebration of African American freedom and accomplishment.
Though the Emancipation Proclamation entered effect on January 1, 1863, the first time the Union Army enforced the proclamation was on June 19, 1865, when General Gordon Granger marched the Union Army into Galveston, Texas and proclaimed all enslaved African Americans living in rebelling states to be free. Slavery was not fully abolished throughout the United States until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment on December 6, 1865. The National Museum of African American History & Culture’s Juneteenth Portal explores the history of Juneteenth, from 1865, to the designation of Juneteenth as a federal holiday in 2021, to how Juneteenth is celebrated today.
The history of San Diego County has been enriched by the contributions of formerly enslaved people and their descendants. Nathan Harrison—born into slavery in Kentucky in the 1830s, passed in freedom in San Diego County in 1920—is one such person. Harrison was a pioneer whose Palomar Mountain homestead hosted tourists who made the trek up the mountain to be regaled by Harrison’s tales of the Old West. Harrison was also the most photographed 19th-century resident of San Diego. The story of Nathan Harrison’s life and the work to uncover his story is told in the San Diego History Museum’s virtual exhibit Nathan Harrison: Born Enslaved, Died a San Diego Legend.
The fights for freedom and social justice continue today. In the words of Coretta Scott King: “Struggle is a never ending process. Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation.” This Juneteenth, celebrate the nation’s second independence day by learning about the similarities between Black liberation work during Reconstruction and today.
Check out these special Juneteenth events being held at San Diego County Library branches.