Some Western New York schools celebrate Juneteenth with day off

Posted at 5:27 PM, Jun 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-07 17:52:21-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — For the first time ever, some schools in New York will observe Juneteenth with a day off.

"We decided to do it this year in light of everything we're teaching around diversity, acceptance, implicit bias. I think it shows we are putting our actions where our words are," Niagara Falls Superintendent Mark Laurrie said.

Buffalo and Niagara Falls schools are just some of many districts celebrating the holiday, but not all schools are taking part.

"This year districts could make that choice. Beginning next year, it's a regular state holiday that should be put into all municipal, government and school calendars," Laurrie said.

Fatima Morrell, associate superintendent for culturally and linguistically response initiatives at Buffalo Public Schools, said this is history in the making.

"It had on the calendar June 18th, no school, observation of Juneteenth. It was one of those moments similar to that same feeling that I had when I walked into the voting booth and saw President Barack Obama," Morrell said.

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day and Emancipation Day, celebrates the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States. It originated in Galveston, Texas when on June 19, 1865 Union Army General Gordon Granger proclaimed freedom from slavery in Texas.

"President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, but why didn't the enslaved Africans in Galveston, Texas not know that until 1865?" Morrell said.

"Having a day that acknowledges African American history, the long ongoing struggle for freedom and important markers along the way, having this day is just a wonderful thing," Kari Winter, professor of American Studies in the Department of Global Gender Studies at the University at Buffalo, said.