Juneteenth, the holiday celebrated on June 19, is a special time to celebrate freedom! Here is some history behind the Juneteenth Celebration and some local events.
In 1861, America went to war over slavery. It was called the Civil War. What we now know as the Confederate States, seceded from the Union, one by one, in protest to the call to end slavery. Those states were Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, and later, Missouri and Kentucky.
By January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation. It declared all enslaved people were free in the Confederate states that rebelled against the Union. In 1865, after a long war and many lives lost on both the Union and Confederate sides of the war, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered. Up until that time Texas continued slavery.
In June of that year, Union Troops headed by Major General Gordon Granger marched into Galveston, Texas to read General Order Number 3, declaring that all the enslaved persons were free. That declaration freed the remaining 250,000 enslaved persons.
Since then many African Americans have celebrated that day the day of freedom. That celebration takes many forms. It’s a time to learn about African American history and culture, celebrate family, have religious ceremonies, and celebrate with cultural food, music and dance. Many celebrate with parades and street fairs.
2020 Local Celebrations
Topeka has celebrated Juneteenth for many years. Due to COVID-19 the in-person Topeka Family and Friends Juneteenth Celebration that usually draws more than 1,000 people, has been canceled. However, there will be many opportunities to celebrate both online and in smaller groups.
Juneteenth Videos from Community Members | June 15-20, 2020
Watch video clips of community members answering Juneteenth questions.
Juneteenth Caravan | June 19, 2020 | Noon-1pm
Decorate your car and join the Juneteenth Caravan from the Brown vs Board National Historic Site to Hillcrest Community Center.
Issues in the Black Community Then and Now | June 19, 2020 | 5:00-7pm
Join the library, in conjunction with AARP, Topeka Family and Friends Juneteenth Celebration Committee and Greater Topeka Partnership for a Facebook Live Community Conversation. Guest speakers include Dean Carla Pratt, Janel Johnson, Dr. Beryl New, and Lazone Grays. Following the conversation enjoy music with the Ric Barron Band.
Trivia on Black History Questions & Answers
- What year was the first organized protest against slavery? 1688
- Who was the first African American to hold a patent? Thomas L. Jennings
- Who was the first African American billionaire? Madam C.J. Walker
- When was the first African American on TV? 1939 Ethel Waters hosted her own show
- Who was the first African American to serve in the U.S. Senate? Hiram Revels of Mississippi in 1870
- What school teacher became the first Black woman elected to the U.S. Congress? Shirley Chisholm
- Show RESPECT for the real Queen of rock and roll. Who was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame? Aretha Franklin
- Founded by newly freed slaves, what Kansas town was the first Black community west of the Mississippi River and is the only predominantly Black community west of the Mississippi that remains a living community today? Nicodemus
- Many believe he is the inspiration for the fictional Lone Ranger but he was the first Black U.S. Marshall, who is he? Bass Reeves
- Since there were no training opportunities for Black women and Native Americans, (and the founder of The Chicago Defender encouraged her) who went to France to obtain her pilots license? In doing so she earned the title of the first Black woman and the first Native American to earn an aviation pilot license. She became well known as a high-profile pilot in dangerous air shows. Bessie Coleman
- Who was the first African American to graduate from Harvard? R.A. Greenen 1870
- He was the first Black jockey to win the first Kentucky Derby? Oliver Lewis 1875
- Who was the first Black federal judge? William Henry Hasti 1937
- Who was the first Black woman to travel in space? Major Carol Jamison
- Who was the first Black presidential cabinet appointee? Robert A. Weaver
- Who organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first labor organization led by African Americans? A. Philip Randolph
Famous Leaders, Artists, Athletes & Inventors
- Who was Toussaint L’Overture? Haitian general best-known leader of the Haitian Revolution
- How many pieces of artwork did Jacob Lawrence create? 319
- W.E.B. Dubois wrote how many books? At least 24
- Who invented a steamboat propeller designed for shallow waters? This was a valuable invention as it facilitated the delivery of food and critical items. Benjamin Montgomery
- This person’s reputation was based on his research into and promotion of alternative crops to cotton, which aided in nutrition for farm families. He wanted poor farmers to grow alternative crops both as a source of their own food and as a source of other products to improve their way of life. What is his name? George Washington Carver
- In 1905, who founded The Chicago Defender, a weekly newspaper that is considered one of the most important newspapers of its kind? Robert S. Abbott
- Which physician pioneered methods of storing plasma and helped organize the first large scale blood bank in the U.S.? Dr. Charles Drew
- Known as one of the greatest and most famous athletes in Track and Field, he won gold four times in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Who is this athlete? Jessie Owens
- She’s Self-Made. Who is this entrepreneur, philanthropist, political and social activist, and early inventor and developer of Black hair products? Sarah Breedlove AKA Madam C.J. Walker
- What Black inventor had a great effect on today’s automobile and invented an oil-drip cup known as the “real McCoy”? Elijah McCoy
- Who invented the fire extinguisher sprinkler system in 1872? T.J. Marshall
- Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball in what year? 1947
- What year was Malcom X killed? 1965
- Where was Aaron Douglas, Harlem Renaissance Artist, born? Topeka, KS 1899
- What year was Thurgood Marshall appointed to the Supreme Court? 1967
- Which Black cowboy invented “Bulldogging” also known as steer wrestling? Bill Pickett
- Which 20th century proponent of the Back-to-Africa movement, also supported racial separatism? Marcus Garvey
- Who was considered the “Father of Black History”? Carter G. Woodson
- Who founded the Tuskegee Institute? Booker T. Washington
- Which inventor improved the light bulb by adding carbon filaments, causing it to stay on for a much longer time than Edison’s original paper filament? Lewis Latimer
- What boxer was called the Brown Bomber? Joe Lewis
- What was the name of the famous Black fighter pilot unit from WWII? Tuskeegee Airmen
- Who invented the smoke hood (first modern gas mask)? Garrett Morgan
- What woman was an early pioneer of laser cataract surgery? Patricia Bath
- Which inventor known as the “Black Thomas Edison”? Granville Woods
Oppression, Justice & Lesser Known Heroes
- Which two free Black men published anti-slavery articles before William Lloyd Garrison? Samuel Cornish and John Russworm published the Freedmen’s Journal in 1827
- In Valley Forge, there was an attempt on the life of then General George Washington. What was the name of the slave who saved his life? Phoebe Faunces
- Whose cells, unwittingly sourced, have been assisting cancer researchers since 1951? The cells are known as the HeLa cell line. Henrietta Lacks
- In 1967, what court case defeated a 300–year–old anti-miscegenation law (laws that enforce racial segregation in relationships)? Loving vs. Virginia
- What Act, passed in 1669 in the state of Virginia and upheld by the Supreme Court at that time, ruled “There is no right that a Black man has that a white man is bound to respect”? Casual Killing Act
- In 1963, a church in what city was bombed, killing four Black youth? Birmingham, AL
- What amendment to the U.S. constitution abolished slavery? 13th
- Where were the first aerial bombs dropped on U.S. soil? Tulsa, OK 1921
- What is the name of the system where Black prisoners were sent to do manual labor for private enterprises without pay for 80 years after the end of slavery? This practice was abolished by President FDR in December, 1941. Convict Leasing System