Johnson County Library is using the new Juneteenth holiday to provide patrons with a vital history lesson.
The Library was pleased to collaborate with other community partners to raise awareness and enhance residents’ understanding of the holiday that marks the end of slavery in the United States.
“Understanding this holiday is important to our patrons, and we are doing what we can to create access to topics and materials around Juneteenth,” said Megan Mascorro-Jackson, Assistant Branch Manager at Lenexa City Center, who worked on the Library’s Juneteenth team.
The official county holiday was Monday June 20. It was preceded by Book Club discussions, Storytimes, Walk & Reads, lectures and other family-friendly events.
Mascorro-Jackson said Library staffers are eager to highlight these important historical events for the community, with a rich collection of educational resources.
“It’s very important to a lot of people,” she said. “Boosting its signal has been super rewarding. The history is fascinating.”
Juneteenth, also known as “Emancipation Day,” or “Day of Freedom,” became an official national holiday in 2021. In October 2021, the Johnson County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved making it an observed county holiday, held for the first time on June 20, since June 19 fell on a Sunday.
Juneteenth (combining “June” and “nineteenth”) refers to the date when Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865. President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, freeing the slaves of the Confederate states. But it took two more years for the Civil War to end and for Black people in Texas to learn the news. The first “Jubilee Day” was organized in Texas on June 19, 1866, launching the Juneteenth celebration tradition.
In Johnson County, a key commemoration event was June 11, when the Library teamed up with the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center for a festival with art, music, food, storytelling and personal histories. The Library presented a special Walk & Read at the center, featuring the books Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free, by Alice Faye Duncan, and Change Sings by poet Amanda Gorman.
Johnson County Museum also had free admission to its compelling exhibit, “REDLINED: Cities, Suburbs and Segregation,” which runs through Jan. 7, 2023.
Museum Director Mary McMurray said the June 11 event was a great opportunity to honor African American history in Johnson County and learn from it.
“I truly believe that when we study our past, we can learn so much to pave the way to a better future,” she said.
Jessica McCallop-McClellan, a June 11 guest speaker, said Juneteenth celebrates the freed slaves’ resilience and African American culture. Her great grandfather, Robert L. McCallop, started a bus company in Shawnee to take Black children to Wyandotte County because they were excluded from Johnson County schools. McCallop-McClellan urged her audience to teach children these stories of African American struggle and progress, and to support Black-owned businesses.
The Library also held a special Juneteenth Storytime June 15, sharing stories and poems on African American heritage with acclaimed author Carole Boston Weatherford and her son, poet and illustrator Jeffery Boston Weatherford.
On June 19, the county held a day-long celebration on Johnson County Square. The Library’s Walk & Read was installed and remained in place until June 30. The Library has also created booklists for patrons wanting to delve deeper into the topic. Much more information is available at jocogov.org/Juneteenth.