Syracuse Celebrates Juneteenth This Weekend in Clinton Square

Jun 16, 2017

This weekend the City of Syracuse marks 152nd Anniversary of when African Americans learned they would be freed from slavery.  The Juneteenth Flag Raising ceremony at Syracuse City Hall reflected on the past and the promise of a brighter future.  Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner presented a proclamation.

The Juneteenth kickoff celebration on the steps of Syracuse City Hall on June 16th.
Credit John Smith/WAER News

“The annual Juneteenth Celebration in the City of Syracuse is a community celebration of the spirit of self-empowerment, a commemoration of the long and arduous fight for freedom by African Americans in the United States.” 

Three years after U.S. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery in 1862, the word hadn’t reached all African Americans.  Retired Syracuse University Newhouse School Broadcast Radio Professor Dr. Rick Wright says the earliest form of long distance communications were destroyed during the Civil War which resulted in the delay.

Local Radio Personality Dr. Rick Wright
Credit John Smith/WAER News

“All of those telegraph lines were blown up.  So, there was no level of communications.  There was no radio, no television, no social media.”

Finally, history was made on June 19th, 1865 in Galveston, Texas.

“Thousands of them, man.  They thought they were still in bondage.  So, they were enslaved working for nothing, getting their tails kicked, hungry, no food, man. Everything.  Union General walks up and says hey folks, I gotta make a statement in front of the balcony of this place.  You all have been free since 1862!” 


Wright adds that Syracuse is filled with a deep rich, history of the abolitionist movement.  The significance of Juneteenth is resonating with our youth.  Aconda Williams recalled the path to freedom for African Americans.

Aconda Williams delivers a speech about Juneteenth and African Americans pathway to freedom.
Credit John Smith/WAER News

“African Americans have overcome so much from slavery… to Rosa Parks not giving up her seat on the bus.  To protesting to boycotting and marching.  We stood together.  And that is exactly what we need to do. Stand together.”

Juneteenth happens this weekend in Clinton Square.  The festival gets underway Friday at 6 P.M. with Gospel music until 9 P.M.  A parade on Saturday from the Dunbar Center to Clinton Square is set for 11:30 A.M. Saturday.  There will be music, food and entertainment on the square.

The Syracuse Gospel Music Workshop of America led by Dr. Joan Hillsman.
Credit John Smith/WAER News