Frederick Douglass famously asked “What, to the American Slave, is your 4th of July?” Many see the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 as the official end of slavery. However, it took nearly two and a half years for word to travel around the country; enslaved people in Texas did not learn of their freedom until June 19th, 1865, when the Union Army arrived to issue the order. Though many Black Americans have celebrated Juneteenth annually since then, it is just now starting to be recognized as an official public holiday, becoming federally-recognized in 2021.

In honor of Juneteenth, Hirsh Health Sciences Library will be closed on Monday, June 19, 2023. We reopen with regular hours on Tuesday, June 20th. Additionally, Tufts will be holding space for remembrance and reflection at a Juneteenth Observance Ceremony on Wednesday, June 21st from 12 – 1:30pm, featuring Dr. Nyle Fort, Assistant Professor of African America and African Diaspora Studies at Columbia University. Whether attending in-person in Medford or streaming virtually, please RSVP online by Wednesday, June 14th.

Juneteenth Observance Ceremony Event Flyer

RSVP to the event at

Even if you’re unable to attend the event, the Tufts Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Office has put together a Resource Guide and a Reading List. Additionally, we encourage you to spend some time reading about the history of Juneteenth from Henry Louis Gates, Jr., learning why Juneteeth is important from the staff of the National Museum of African American History & Culture, and listening to NPR Code Switch’s podcast about Juneteenth food and its deeper meanings.

You can also celebrate Juneteenth at one of the many events around Boston. Embrace Boston is hosting a free Juneteenth Block Party at Roxbury Community College on Friday, June 16th. On Saturday, June 17th, Hyde Park’s second annual Juneteenth Joy Celebration will feature performances, dances, a local Black vendor fair, food, and fun. On Juneteenth, enjoy performances and art-making at the MFA for free, or see the Boston Juneteenth Parade march through Roxbury before visiting the National Center of Afro-American Artists.

Two Black women pose in horse-drawn buggy decorated with flowers in 1908

Juneteenth Buggy 1908 via Houston Public Library Digital Archives


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