Local governments should recognize Juneteenth holiday

Posted 24 June 2022 at 2:05 pm


Heart-wrenching, newspaper ads, placed by formerly enslaved people, searched for loved ones in the decades after 1860. Ads cited enslaver “owner” name… location… last seen place… daughter… son…sister… brother… sold to…sold again to… sold again to…I can be reached at….

Families had been torn apart by domestic slave trade in America. Freed people wanted to see their family again before they died. Runaways who changed names to avoid slave catchers added challenges. The ads were persistently hopeful, unique and compelling. Villa Nova University has devotedly collected over 3,500 ads, digitized and produced a new genealogy tool for tracing family history “LAST SEEN: Finding Family After Slavery,” available free online.

Authentic ads are a window into the deep pain, within the freedom gained. Juneteenth National Independence Day, also called Freedom Day, Emancipation Day, now a federal holiday. Most federal employees receive a day off. 24 states, including NY, legally recognize Juneteenth as a public holiday and state workers have a paid day off. Communities in Erie County have been called out, criticized on local news for not recognizing this day. Following criticism, the Town of Tonawanda put together an impromptu commemorative event. Juneteenth celebration should resonate in new ways for Buffalonians after the recent white supremacist massacre.

Slavery continued in Texas after the Civil War when all slaves had been freed. 2.5 years later federal troops marched into Texas and freed the slaves. Texas has celebrated healing by recognizing Juneteenth since 1980. A National Juneteenth Museum in Fort Worth is planned to be open for Juneteenth in 2024.

Town offices where I live and Niagara County offices were open on the holiday. Did your town recognize the significance of the holiday? I urge reconsideration of Juneteenth in 2023. It’s the decent thing to do.

Carol Nochajski