NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Juneteenth, Freedom Day, now a national holiday, had people gathering, storytelling and singing Friday.
The voices of members of the Congressional Black Caucus were triumphant after Thursday’s signing by President Joe Biden.READ MORE: 16-Year-Old Killed In Double Shooting On Lower East Side, Second Victim In Hospital
Now, we are encouraged to take a deep dive into history and put a spotlight on unsung heroes.
“It was enslaved people who really led the charge for abolition,” said Dr. Michelle Commander, who works for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
The center has a collection of 11 million items about a long journey to freedom, including the origins of Juneteenth.
“Federal troops came after the Civil War to Galveston, Texas, to let the enslaved people there know that they are free and indeed had been free for the past two-plus years,” Commander said. “When we think about a place like New York City … slavery touched almost every corner of this nation in some way. If it wasn’t the institution itself, a plantation itself, it was the money,”
To see more artifacts, CBS2’s Dave Carlin visited the Connecticut Historical Society Museum and Library with chief curator Ilene Frank.
“I want to show you this rare anti-slavery society banner. It dates to about 1835 to 1845,” she said.READ MORE: New York Weather: CBS2’s 10/16 Saturday Morning Forecast
She showed how the fight to end slavery began long before the Civil War, introducing us to key figures.
“Mr. James Mars, who was born a slave around 1790, lived ’til 1880, an incredibly long life,” she said. “So he writes ‘Life of James Mars, a Slave’ in Connecticut … It is a Connecticut story that he was seeing how people were forgetting that there were enslaved people in the north.”
Dennis Walcott is president and CEO of Queens Public Library.
“Really reminding people of the historical significance of Juneteenth but also really allow hopeful, thoughtful discussion on what needs to take place in dealing with equity in our society,” he said.
He urges everyone to learn more about Juneteenth and civil rights right at the library.
“People sacrificed for that to happen and I think libraries are the perfect place … where people can engage in that type of discussion and learn about the history,” he said.MORE NEWS: At Least 1 Dead In Long Island Legionnaires' Disease Outbreak
Meanwhile, a block party kicked off in Harlem on Friday evening to celebrate the holiday. It goes until 8 p.m.