On June 18, 2020, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear publicly signed a proclamation calling for Juneteenth (June 19) to be declared an official state holiday. In fact, Beshear is just one of many public figures who have taken steps to foreground the observance of Juneteenth across the country, as proposals for the holiday’s official recognition continue to flow from local, state, and federal government offices. Even in our small town of Danville, a proclamation recognizing Juneteenth will be read by Mayor Mike Perros at City Hall as part of a larger ceremony celebration for the holiday.

Without a doubt, the media flurry surrounding this year’s arrival of Juneteenth has shined a blaring light on the fact that many Americans (especially white Americans) have never heard of the holiday, despite the fact that millions of African Americans commemorate it – and have commemorated it – for over 150 years.

So, for those of us who don’t know, what exactly is Juneteenth?

While Abraham Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, it would not be until June 19, 1865 that Union soldiers reached Galveston, Texas – a formerly-Confederate territory – to free the last remaining enslaved peoples, which numbered over 250,000. Since that time, “Juneteenth” marks the official end of slavery in the United States and is celebrated as a day of true independence for the African American community.

Video by The Root

We at the Norton Center encourage you to join us in recognizing this day along with Centre College, who, on this Juneteenth, announced the establishment of the George Floyd Cornerstone Fund. As described by representatives of the Underrepresented Minority Faculty Working Group, the Fund “commemorates all those who have died as a result of racist actions and policies,” and “is designed to give voice, and resources, to those who are prepared to engage in the work of anti-racism at Centre College.” For more information on the Fund and the initiatives it will support at Centre College, please visit their website.

Do you wish to join us in learning more about the Juneteenth holiday?  We invite you to explore the following activities and resources, all of which relate to the history of Juneteenth.


For Grownups!

  1. “The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth” Produced by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, this digital exhibit which explores the legacy of Juneteenth using pictures, video, and images of primary sources like newspaper clippings.
  2. Help the Boston Public Library Transcribe Anti-Slavery Manuscripts” Help make abolitionist manuscripts easier to read for teachers, students, historians, and more by helping to transcribe hand-written anti-slavery documents from the 19th century.
  3. Born in Slavery: Portraits and Narratives of Formerly Enslaved People” In this online collection, the Library of Congress shares over 2,000 first-hand accounts from former slaves that were collected in the 1930s.
  4. Why all Americans should honor Juneteenth” in this video produced by Vox, learn about the history and significance of Juneteenth from historian Karlos K. Hill (University of Oklahoma)

For the Family!

  1. “Juneteenth edition of the Story Creation Zone with the Story Pirates Creator Club” At 7pm on Friday, June 19, tune in for a live show with the Story Pirates! In this interactive performance, kids can share their thoughts and ideas directly with the cast as the show takes place. If you miss it, don’t worry – you can check it out later in the archive. (Fun fact – the Story Pirates have visited us at the Norton Center before!)
  2. “Behind the Doodle: 155th Anniversary of Juneteenth” In this video, join artist Loveis Wise, actor LeVar Burton, and Project Art Director Angelica McKinley and as they talk about the creation of this year’s Juneteenth Google Doodle.
  3. “Write a Story with Story Spark!” Also for kids (and also, from our friends at Story Pirates)! Using illustrated prompts to give a creative *spark,* Story Pirates invites kids to write a story or draw a picture that speaks to a specific topic. For Juneteenth, Story Pirates have shared three special “sparks” for kids to explore.

Molly Baker is a graduate of Berea College, where she studied Art History and Asian Studies. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Art History from the University of Kentucky. Before joining the Norton Center for the Arts, Molly held the position of Gallery Manager at TAMARACK: The Best of West Virginia. Later, she served as Assistant Curator/Gallery Manager at the Doris Ulmann Galleries (Berea College) as a sabbatical replacement. Molly is especially dedicated to the study and promotion of the arts and arts-based experiences using creative methods. Specifically, her goal is to bridge arts presentations with inclusive opportunities to learn about context, creators, and cultural significance, pointing to our combined human experiences in order to encourage critical thinking and understanding.