Queens Public Library celebrates Juneteenth with series of events

Queens Public Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott donates books to the free library in Addisleigh Park, where he used to live. (Courtesy of Queens Public Library)

Queens Public Library (QPL) will honor Juneteenth, the annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States on June 19, 1865, with curated reading lists and a virtual re-enactment of the first Juneteenth, when slaves in Texas learned they had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier.

The library will also offer virtual programs, including crafts, storytimes, and resilience-themed music.

This week, Congress passed legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday which President Joe Biden signed into law Thursday, making Juneteenth the first new federal holiday since 1983 when Martin Luther King Jr. Day was enacted. QPL will also officially observe Juneteenth by closing its locations on June 19.

“Our goal is to amplify the significance of Juneteenth and deepen the public’s understanding about that pivotal day,” Queens Public Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott said. “We also want to recognize the monumental fight for the emancipation of Black Americans, and the continued struggle for racial equity and inclusion in our society.”

Highlights include “Juneteenth: No More Masters, No More Slaves,” a re-enactment of the moment two enslaved women working in the cotton fields of Texas were informed by two Black soldiers that they had been freed by President Abraham’s Emancipation Proclamation. The event will be presented by the 6th Regiment United States Colored Troops Reenactors on Saturday, June 19, from 2 to 3:15 p.m.

Children can participate in a Juneteenth storytime on QPL’s Facebook page on Saturday at 11 a.m. and QPL Hip Hop Coordinator Ralph McDaniels will host a “Celebration of Resilience,” and Instagram Live music session that will recognize the contributions of the African diaspora at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Additionally, QPL’s mobile library will be parked at Roy Wilkins Park at the Juneteenth in Queens festival from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. Librarians from QPL’s Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center, which houses the Black Heritage Reference Center of Queens County, will be tabling at the festival.

To learn more about QPL’s Juneteenth events and activities, and to see curated book lists for different age groups, click here.

Meanwhile, Walcott joined the Addisleigh Park Civic Organization’s celebration of the 10th anniversary of the designation of the Addisleigh Park Historic District on Saturday, June 12, to dedicate a free lending library, and donate several books.

The library is a small, green house with a Plexi Glass door and three shelves with room for about 15 books. It will be mounted on a five-foot-tall post.

“Given my current role and my roots in a place that I love, it was an honor for me to dedicate the lending library,” said Walcott, a former Addisleigh Park resident. “I want to congratulate the Addisleigh Park Civic Organization for giving their community another reason to be proud to live in this historic neighborhood.”