Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, is a holiday celebrated on June 19th and commemorates the date slaves were officially freed. On June 3rd, 2021, Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller announced that Montclair would be observing the Friday before Juneteenth (Juneteenth fell on a Saturday in 2021) as a public holiday in order to commemorate Juneteenth. This decision came before President Joe Biden declared Juneteenth as a federal holiday. This year marks the 2nd year that Montclair will close in honor of Juneteenth, with everyone getting off for the holiday on June 17th. Read on to learn more about Juneteenth and what Mayor Spiller had to say.
The History of Juneteenth
Juneteenth, or June 19th, is the date that officially recognizes the day in which slaves were freed. Although President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, 1863, it took about two and a half years for the news to reach the southern states where there were still enslaved people. About 250,000 people were still being used as slaves until Union General Gordon Granger informed the people of Texas that all slaves were free.
While many members of the Black community have been recognizing and celebrating Juneteenth for decades, it’s only in the last couple years that we began to see legislation to publicly recognize Juneteenth as a holiday.
In September of 2020, Governor Murphy signed into legislation that the third Friday in June will be a State and public holiday celebrating Juneteenth. Mayor Spiller announced in 2021 that Montclair would also be observing the third Friday as Juneteenth, a public holiday. Shortly thereafter last year, Juneteenth became a federal holiday. As a result, all municipal offices were set to be closed, and recycling collection did not take place on this new holiday — and the same goes for this year.
Making it a Public Holiday in Montclair
In the announcement from the township last year, Mayor Spiller said, “Juneteenth is not only a celebration of this momentous period in our history, but also a day that affords us an opportunity to consider how much more needs to be done to ensure true equity and justice for all Americans. The need to recognize the challenges we still face as a nation, to confront the systemic racism rooted in so many of our institutions, and to truly live up to the ideals prescribed in the founding documents of this great nation is a call to action that each of us, as Americans, need to answer.”
Even though the rest of the country followed suit, Montclair was proudly ahead of the curve by declaring Juneteenth a public holiday.
This Juneteenth, there are many ways to celebrate and recognize this important day in history. We’ve rounded up Juneteenth events in Essex County for everyone to be able to participate in this historic day.