Juneteenth Flag

On September 22, 1862, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring all enslaved peoples to be free. News of their freedom took over two and a half years to reach the people of Galveston, Texas. On June 19, 1865, it was announced in Texas that “all slaves are free” and granted “absolute equality of personal rights.”[1]

Across the country, we celebrate these proclamations on June 19th, known as Juneteenth. It’s also called Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, America’s second Independence Day and, as of this week, a federal holiday.

Juneteenth has always been significant to Black Americans. And today, more and more people across the country are becoming aware of its importance. In many ways, Juneteenth represents how freedom and justice has been delayed for Black people. It’s a reminder that until everyone is free, none of us are free.

Juneteenth is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on our nation’s history and acknowledge the profound impact of slavery.

The Emancipation Proclamation promised freedom, equality, and opportunity to the Black communities of the United States. Yet, purposeful systems of racism and oppression have actively worked to combat these promises. Nevertheless, Black people have persisted, coming together to create their own opportunities for success and empowerment.

A historically Black-led organization, Byrd Barr Place has been building economic mobility and civic engagement with the Black community from our beginnings. Since 1965, we have not only advocated for civil rights, we have worked to dismantle systemic barriers that perpetuate racism and poverty. Every day, we help our neighbors in the Central District and throughout Seattle meet their basic needs with access to food, shelter, warmth and financial tools. We see the humanity of each person who reaches out to us or walks through our doors.

As we consider the importance of Juneteenth — of the promise of freedom, equality and opportunity, Byrd Barr Place is committed to being part of that legacy. We honor the civil rights leaders who built this organization and carry forward their inspiration in our work to advocate for Black liberation and empower all people to live healthy, prosperous lives.


[1] Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Texas Remembers Juneteenth. https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ref/abouttx/juneteenth.html