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Posted on: June 6, 2020

[ARCHIVED] Greenburgh Slice of History

Juneteenth: A Day of Liberation

Town Historian

Andrea Stewart-Cousins

Juneteenth: A Day of Liberation

By: Riley Wentzler &Felicia Barber


Background: A Long Road To Freedom 

It is a known fact that African explorers shared the spirit of discovering the world beyond their known boundaries with their European counterparts. Christopher Columbus and Vasco Nunez de Balboa both made note of an African presence in the Americas upon their arrivals in the late 1400’s and 1500’s. In 1619, the first group of enslaved Africans were forcibly brought to the geographical area of our country that became Hampton, Virginia. For several centuries, people were forcibly taken from Africa and brought to South America, the Caribbean and United States for the purpose of forced labor - "enslavement." This act of human trafficking was part of the international slave trade. After 1808, Americans engaged in the interstate slave trade, a homegrown form of human trafficking that brutally separated parents from children, husbands from wives and applied torture, brutality and terrorism to use African Americans to produce products for the purpose of rebuilding the American economy and, ultimately, by the 1820’s, driving American expansion, enabling the young country to grow from a narrow coastal belt into a vast, powerful nation with the fastest-growing economy in the world (through cotton harvesting and production). African Americans were forced migrants and an "enslaved people" in the United States. This country is known to have imposed the worst form of "human chattel slavery" in the history of the world.

Once this brutal institution was established in America, African American enslaved individuals had a very long road to freedom.  It wasn’t until January 1 1862, that President Abraham Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation giving freedom to most but not all enslaved individuals residing in the United States. The exact words of that document are, “That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free” (Abraham Lincoln January 1 1862). As revolutionary as this document was, it only applied to, “all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States.” This meant that, enslaved individuals in the confederate states now were free, but enslaved individuals in the border states of: Delaware, Kentucky and Maryland were still in bondage.

These enslaved individuals would not become free until the ratification of the thirteenth amendment to the United States Constitution on December 6th, 1865. The exact words of that document as written on February 1, 1865 are, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction" (United States Constitution Amendment XIII). With the words, “shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction,” Lincoln made clear that, unlike the Emancipation Proclamation, the thirteenth amendment applied to the entire United States. Thus, both the Emancipation Proclamation, and thirteenth amendment, are huge milestones in the journey of African Americans from enslaved individuals treated as property, to free citizens with rights of their own, which all adult Americans know about. The obvious importance of both these documents often causes many Americans to forget about, or in some cases not even be told about, (here, the authors sternly and reproachfully point to their own inadequate Civil Rights education as an example) a milestone which occurred in between these events. This milestone occurred on June 19th 1865, now referred to as Juneteenth.

 African Drums



A Very Special Day:




To understand this important historic event, it should be stated at the outset that when President Abraham Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation, during the Civil War, most southern states refused to comply with it. This may sound shocking, but, upon further reflection, should actually come as a surprise to no one. After all, in 1862, the South did not consider itself part of the United States of America, which Abraham Lincoln governed. It considered itself the Confederate States of America which had its own: flag, constitution, army, and most importantly with regards to the Emancipation Proclamation, its own president, Jefferson Davis. In effect, the southern states existed ,illegally, but existed nonetheless, as their own sovereign nation. One of the many southern states which refused to comply was Texas. Even after General Robert E. Lee’s surrender on April 4th 1865, Texas still refused to comply ( Accordingly, President Andrew Johnson, who assumed the presidency after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, sent Major General Gordon Granger to force Texas to release all enslaved individuals residing under the state’s jurisdiction from bondage.  General Granger did not arrive until June 19th 1865. His arrival and subsequent liberation of enslaved individuals within the State of Texas is celebrated as the holiday “Juneteenth”



It is typically celebrated with: feasts at which educational speeches are given, fishing, barbecuing, and baseball games (   Even though it’s not a national holiday, it is celebrated in all but four states today ( These four states are: Hawaii, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana (


Emancipation Oak Plaque


Emancipation Oak


Photo Credits: Andre Early, (Commissioner of the Department of Community Resources)




Photo Credits: Andre Early, (Commissioner of the Department of Community Resources)



Previous Slices of History include:




Greenburgh’s BROTHERLY LOVE, RELIEF AND TRUTH: A History of The Freemasons in Greenburgh (9/12/18)




Greenburgh and The Arts (9/22/18)




A Final Resting Place for “Man’s Best Friend”: The Peaceable Kingdom (9/29/18)




Greenburgh’s Hall of Heroes: Ferncliff Cemetery Where Memories Live Forever (10/12/18)




Greenburgh at The Great American Crossroads: Greenburgh’s Civil War Story(10/19/18)




A Different Kind of Rebel: Greenburgh’s Contributions to the Underground Railroad (10/27/18)




"The Disappearing Railroad Blues" in Greenburgh: The Fate of the Putnam Railroad Line and the old Putnam Trail (11/6/18)




A Thousand Words Which You Never Knew: The Forgotten Story of the Seal of Greenburgh (11/17/18)




How a Flat Tire led to a Happy Escape: The Story of Carvel in Greenburgh (12/11/18)




The Guardians of History: Greenburgh’s Historical Societies (1/6/19)




A Small House, an Important Meeting, a Huge Victory: The Story of the Odell House (1/12/2019)




The Intersection of Banking, Ballet, and School: Greenburgh’s Warburg Estate  (Updated) (10/22/19) 


Lost History: The Tragedy of Malkasten (1/26/19)




A Beautiful View for the Perfect Event: The Belvedere Estate (2/9/19)




The Power of Wealth and Humility: A Reflection on Two Highly Influential African Americans (2/18/19)




Greenburgh Under the Hollywood Lights: The TV shows and movies Filmed in Greenburgh Part I (2/23/19)




Oh, The Places Your Mail has Gone: A History of The Hartsdale Post Office (3/9/2019)




From Insurance to Symphonies: The Home of Charles Ives (3/16/19)




Greenburgh Under the Hollywood Lights: The TV shows and Movies Filmed in Greenburgh Part II (3/29/19)




From Chasing Rabbits to Setting Records: The Amazing Story of Larry James (4/7/2019)




From Fixing Cars to building Infrastructure: How Massaro Park Got its name (4/13/2019)




There is no church here, but “the brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated” this ground: The Story of The Little White Church Cemetery (4/27/19)




Irvington in Chains and our Process A History of Slavery in Irvington and A look at how Slices of History are made (and our interview with historian Robert Marchant) (5/11/2019)




From Farmland to Shopping District: The Rise of Central Avenue (5/25/2019)




Like a long lost friend”: The story of how summer recreation has evolved in Greenburgh (6/7/2019)




Abandon Ship!!! The Story of United Nuclear Corporation and their Short-lived Elmsford Facility (6/28/19)




Beyond Heritage Versus Hate Toward Hope and Reconciliation: The story of Mount Hope Cemetery and its Confederate Monument (7/13/19)




Hidden History: The Story of Fairview Fairgrounds Part I (7/27/19)




Entertainers for Justice (8/3/2019)




A Tale of Two Towns: Greenburgh, NY, and Muncy, PA (8/23/ 2019)


  •  When Greenburgh Went  “East  Bound and Down”: Greenburgh  During Prohibition (10/6/2019)



  • From Mopping The Floor of One Institution to Managing Three at Once: The Amazing Story of Former Westchester County Commissioner of Public Welfare Ruth Taylor (12/12/19)

  • Greenburgh Gets its “Sun Daze on” Under the Watchful Eyes of the Boys in Blue (1/9/2020)


  • Formed By Adversity, Held Together by Faith: The History of the Parkway Homes/Parkway Gardens Community (2/27/2020) 

  • From an Apple Orchard to The Olympics: The Saint Andrew’s Golf Club (3/8/2020)

Ashes “Ashes, Ashes!!We all Fall Down”(3/23/2020)

  •  A Leading Medical Institution at The Border of Greenburgh: The Story of New York Medical College (4 /4 /2020)
  • When the Cure was Worse than the Disease: A Look back on When The Medical Profession Wasn’t so Reliable: ( 4/18/2020)
  •  All Aboard!!! The Story of The Old Putnam Railroad In Greenburgh (5/31/2020)


About the Authors:



We are both Assistant Town Historians at Greenburgh Town Hall and we are engaged to be married and are currently looking for permanent employment.



Riley Wentzler:


I was born and raised in a small rural town in central Pennsylvania. In high school, I took every honors course available including four years of Spanish. I received A’s in all of them. I graduated third in my class of 146 students. This brought me to Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Once there, I continued my trend of academic excellence. I graduated summa cum laude in Political Science with a minor in Spanish and a Master’s in Communication Studies, with a G.P.A of 3.94.  It was also there that I met my lovely fiancée, Felicia Barber. My Master’s in Communication has promoted public speaking, teamwork, and customer service. My Political Science degree has developed my research skills using computer-based tools and provided me with experience using the Microsoft Office products. My minor in Spanish has facilitated my bilingual capabilities. During my internship at Greenburgh, I created the petition for the State Roads project using website tools. My diverse education and areas of interest have provided me with a wide range of skills. I look forward to finding a career opportunity in business or government. To suggest a topic for next week’s article, you can contact me at assistanthistorian@greenburghny.comor to help me find employment, you can contact me at 




Felicia Barber:


I was born in New York City and raised in Hartsdale, New York. I graduated from Ardsley High School. I recently earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. It was here that I met my fiancé, Riley Wentzler. As a result of my academic excellence, I won a scholarship every year. I learned and applied many graphic design skills to projects during my summer internships and at school. I am proficient in using Adobe graphic design applications including Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. For my Identity/branding course at Edinboro, I created logos to appear on the tee-shirts of Physical Education majors. For a veteran’s upcoming event, I used a typeface to focus the reader to the soldier in the poster. For the State Roads Legislative Campaign project, I created the embedded graphic-photo that accompanied the petition I am looking for a job to utilize my skills as a Graphic Designer in an agency, print shop, company or government To suggest a topic for next week’s article, you can contact me at assistanthistorian@greenburghny.comTo learn more about my artwork or to help me find employment you can contact me at






Two Interviews with the authors:







Criss, D. ( 2019, June 19). All but four US states celebrate Juneteenth as a holiday. CNN, p. (Unknown).


Criss, D. (2019, June 19). Hawaii one of only 4 states that doesn’t officially recognize ’Juneteenth’ as a Holiday . Island News, p. History.


National Juneteenth Register. ((NOT GIVEN), (NOT GIVEN) (NOT GIVEN)). History of Juneteenth. Retrieved from



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