By Donald Gilpin
Juneteenth, Freedom Day, commemorating the end of slavery in the United States after the Civil War, will be celebrated throughout the Princeton area with a variety of events from Friday, June 17 to Monday, June 20.
Celebrated by African Americans since the late 1800s, Juneteenth, officially June 19, became a New Jersey state holiday in 2020 and a federal holiday in 2021.
“It’s one of those extraordinary stories,” said Donnetta Johnson, executive director of the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum (SSAAM) in Skillman, where an action-packed observance will take place on Saturday, June 18 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. “After people were emancipated it wasn’t until two years later that the word got to Galveston, Texas. A sergeant in the army saw that people were still enslaved and he couldn’t believe his eyes.”
On June 19, 1865 a Union Army general finally proclaimed freedom from slavery in Texas. “It’s been a jubilant celebration of freedom,” Johnson continued. “Really America’s first celebration of freedom, because you can’t have freedom in a place that doesn’t have freedom. This is a great American holiday. Of course, the battle wasn’t over and still isn’t over, but this is an American expression of freedom. It’s very significant to the African American community and should be significant to all Americans.” more