Every year, communities across the nation gather to commemorate the day of emancipation from slavery in Texas—the last of all the states to abolish slavery—and that day is June 19th, 1865.
Prior to the celebration of Juneteenth, African Americans living in Central New York celebrated what is referred to as the “Emancipation Jubilee” around January 1, the day on which the Emancipation Proclamation technically took effect. The first Emancipation Jubilee held in Syracuse was on January 20, 1863. Speakers included Rev. Samuel May and Rev. M.E. Strieby of the American Missionary Association. Between 1865 and 1877, while similar celebrations took place in Central New York, the holiday did not become an annual one.
Syracuse officially held its first Juneteenth celebration in 1988 and has celebrated the day ever since with an exception of being limited by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021). The celebration has moved from the Spirit of Jubilee Park to Clinton Square in Downtown Syracuse. It centers the contributions of African Americans to the fabric of America which is one of Americas’s greatest foundational strength–the labor and ingenuity of its own citizens, even before they were recognized as citizens.
The Syracuse Juneteenth Festival acknowledges the role that many people in the Central New York area had in achieving and maintaining freedom, equality, and opportunity for African Americans—from the days of abolitionism to present time. Juneteenth is unique to our American History and we invite all people to participate in the celebrations, the education, and the fellowship of the holiday. It’s lessons for us transcend racial and ethnic boundaries.
Our 2022 festival will be the first one in Syracuse since Juneteenth became acknowledged as a state—and subsequently federal—holiday. The COVID-19 pandemic reduced festival planning from 10 months to less than 5 months. After two years, we appreciate all of the volunteers and sponsors who are supporting out work to return the festival to a wonderful and meaningful celebration moving forward.