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Juneteenth 2024 Celebration in Harrison, NJ: A Historic Journey

Jun 19, 2024
Juneteenth Flag with Abraham Lincoln Insert

Juneteenth, a fusion of "June" and "nineteenth," stands as a poignant symbol of the end of slavery in the United States. Its significance, deeply rooted in American history, has led to its recognition both as a federal and state holiday. In the Town of Harrison, NJ, the observance of Juneteenth has been marked by celebration, contention, and confusion, reflecting the broader journey of this historic day.

The History and Significance of Juneteenth

The origin of Juneteenth dates back to June 19, 1865. On this day, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, with the announcement that the Civil War had ended and enslaved people were free. This news came over two months after the war's conclusion and more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. The delay in receiving the proclamation's news did not dampen the spirit of celebration among the freed slaves, leading to the annual commemoration known as Juneteenth.

Initially, Juneteenth celebrations were localized, but over time, the observance spread to other states. It became known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, honoring the struggle for freedom and the cultural heritage of African Americans. The Emancipation Proclamation did not free all enslaved individuals; it applied only to those in Confederate states. The 13th Amendment, ratified in 1865, was necessary to abolish slavery throughout the United States.

Juneteenth Becomes a National and State Holiday

In 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation making the third Friday of June a state holiday in commemoration of Juneteenth. This decision initially placed the holiday on June 19th each year, but an amendment later set it on the third Friday of June. New Jersey's recognition of Juneteenth as a state holiday preceded the federal designation.

In 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bill into law establishing June 19th as a federal holiday, marking a nationwide celebration of Juneteenth. This dual recognition underscores the day's significance and the importance of acknowledging the end of slavery and the ongoing journey toward equality and justice.

Juneteenth 2023 in Harrison: Contention and Confusion

In 2023, Harrison's observance of Juneteenth became a point of contention and confusion. The town closed its offices on Friday, June 16, in alignment with the state holiday, while the Harrison Public Schools initially planned to do the same. However, the Harrison Board of Education later changed its plans, deciding to keep schools open on June 16 and instead close on Monday, June 19, to align with the federal holiday.

This abrupt change disrupted plans for school staff and families, who had expected the school closure on June 16 based on the official school calendar. The lack of clear communication around this change exacerbated the confusion. For instance, a school crossing guard's daughter had to seek clarification on social media about the correct school closure date, highlighting the need for better communication.

Looking Ahead: Juneteenth 2024

As Harrison looks forward to future Juneteenth celebrations, the events of 2023 serve as a reminder of the importance of clear communication and thoughtful planning. In 2024, the federal Juneteenth holiday will fall on Wednesday, June 19, while New Jersey's state holiday will be observed on Friday, June 21.

From a review of the Harrison Public School’s Calendar, there was a Juneteenth Celebration on Tuesday, May 7th noted as a half a day. Although the public can access the calendar, to access details you need a username and password.  There is no Juneteenth Celebration on the calendar for Wednesday, June 19th.  Last year, the Harrison Public School closed on June 19, 2023, the Federal observance of the Juneteenth Holiday.

The Town of Harrison Calendar has the Town Hall opened on Wednesday, June 19th, and closed on Friday, June 21st  in Observance of Juneteenth in accordance with the State of New Jersey observance of Juneteenth. The Harrison High School Graduation is scheduled for Thursday, June 20, 2024, and the Washington Middle School Graduation is scheduled for Friday, June 21, 2024.`It does not appear that there is a Town of Harrison Juneteenth Flag Raising or Celebration.  There will however be a Juneteenth Celebration at the Gotham FC v. San Diego Wave SC soccer game before and during their game scheduled for Wednesday, June 19, 2004, with a 5:30 p.m. start and a 7 p.m. kickoff.  Learn more through this link.

Community Voices: When Should Juneteenth Be Celebrated?

The dual observance of Juneteenth—on June 19th and the third Friday in June—raises a broader question for the community: When should Juneteenth be celebrated? Some argue that the historical significance of June 19th should be preserved, while others appreciate the extended weekend that the third Friday offers. This ongoing debate invites residents to reflect on the true essence of Juneteenth and how best to honor its legacy.

Juneteenth is more than a holiday; it is a celebration of freedom, progress, and unity. As Harrison and communities nationwide continue to commemorate this historic day, the focus should remain on its profound significance and the continued journey toward equality. Through clear communication and community engagement, the true spirit of Juneteenth can be honored and preserved for future generations.

Give Us Your Opinion

What are your thoughts on when the Juneteenth holiday should be celebrated? Should it be celebrated on June 19th each year or on the third Friday of June? An extended weekend is nice, but shouldn't the holiday of this significance be celebrated on the 19th, the actual day that gives it its historical importance? Share your views with us on our Community Discussion Board. Haven't joined yet? Sign up now for free and be part of the conversation! Board.