This weekend we join the nation in celebrating freedom and celebrating Juneteenth. Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. The Delaware County District Library will remain open during our regular hours during this celebration, but we’re marking this newly minted federal holiday with crafts and activities in all of our branches throughout the month.
In case you need a quick history refresher, on June 19, 1865, the Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce the freedom of the more than 250,000 enslaved Black people in Texas — more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln had originally issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Jubilee Day, is marked by celebrations, family gatherings, picnics, and readings of the Emancipation Proclamation to mark the end of slavery in the United States. As Juneteenth is an occasion not just for celebration, but also for reflection and education, the nation uses this day to recognize and honor the profound contributions of Black people to American history and culture.
Visit the Delaware County District Library website at www.delawarelibrary.org to download related booklists for readers of all ages, find programs, and learn about what other communities in central Ohio are doing to celebrate.
In Delaware County, there are two celebrations happening this weekend. The Juneteenth Celebration will take place at Blue Limestone Park, located at 6 King Ave. in Delaware, today from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Later on this evening, the Unity Community Center is hosting a Juneteenth Gala from 6 to 9 p.m. at SourcePoint.
Each branch of the library will be creating paper Freedom Quilts this month. When people escaped their enslavers and headed north, it was hard to know where to look for help. Stories passed through travelers to find safe homes by looking for a quilt hanging from a clothesline or windowsill. The quilt blocks each had a secret meaning to explain how to continue traveling or what dangers to expect forthcoming. Coloring sheets are at each branch for children to add their own quilt square to our Library Freedom Quilts.
While you’re visiting the Orange and Delaware branches, take a moment to add to our Freedom Wall. Juneteenth is all about celebrating freedom, and patrons of all ages can help create a piece of artwork showing the things we value about our freedom. Simply grab a blank star at the exhibit and write your answer to the question “What does freedom mean to you?” Hang your star on the wall wherever you like, and take a moment to see what others have to say, too.
Below you’ll find some of the book recommendations on our Juneteenth reading lists for young readers, teens, and adults.
• “Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth” by Alice Faye Duncan. The true story of Black activist Opal Lee and her vision of Juneteenth as a holiday for everyone will inspire children to be brave and make a difference. Growing up in Texas, Opal knew the history of Juneteenth, but she soon discovered that most Americans had never heard of the holiday that represents the nation’s creed of “freedom for all.”
“All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom” by Angela Johnson. In 1865, members of a family start their day as slaves, working in a Texas cotton field, and end it celebrating their freedom on what came to be known as Juneteenth.
• “Crossing Ebenezer Creek” by Tonya Bolden. When Mariah and her young brother Zeke are suddenly freed from slavery, they set out on Sherman’s long march through Georgia during the Civil War. Mariah wants to believe that the brutalities of slavery are behind them forever and that freedom lies ahead.
• “Watermelon & Red Birds: A Cookbook for Juneteenth and Black Celebrations” by Nicole A. Taylor. In 1866, Juneteenth celebrations were celebrated with music, dance, and BBQs. Taylor bridges the traditional African American table and twenty-first century flavors with stories and recipes that will inspire parties to salute the holiday, or to help you create moments to savor joy all year round.
• “Conjure Women” by Afia Atakora. A sweeping story that brings the world of the South before and after the Civil War vividly to life. Spanning eras and generations, it tells of the lives of three unforgettable women: Miss May Belle, a wise healing woman; her precocious and observant daughter Rue, who is reluctant to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a midwife; and their master’s daughter Varina.
If you have a question that you would like to see answered in this column, mail it to Nicole Fowles, Delaware County District Library, 84 E. Winter St., Delaware, OH 43015, or call us at 740-362-3861. You can also email your questions by visiting the library’s web site at www.delawarelibrary.org or directly to Nicole at [email protected] No matter how you contact us, we’re always glad you asked!