Juneteenth: A History Prevailed

Historically, Americans have celebrated July 4—the day in 1776 when the 13 colonies liberated themselves from the rule of Great Britain—as its national independence day. Many people living inside the borders of this country during that time, however, were not free. 

Juneteenth—celebrated every year on June 19—is a national holiday celebrating the day Black Americans were granted their  freedom and status as human citizens in the United States. A common misconception exists that slaves were freed with the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 or at the end of the Civil War on April 9, 1865, but the reality is southern states rejected Union laws and kept their slaves in the dark about their freedom in the hopes that they could still win the war. Some states, such as Delaware and Kentucky, remained in a state of rebellion and continued to allow slavery. As one of the most remote southern states with a low Union presence, Texas served as a refuge for slave owners—a place to hide enslaved Africans from in hopes of keeping what they considered to be their “property.” Texas saw an influx of over three times as many slaves after the proclamation was issued. It wasn’t until Union Major General Gordon Granger arrived on the island of Galveston, Texas on the morning of June 19, 1865 and read the following words that many enslaved Africans found out about their freedom: 

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

From these words, Juneteenth was born.

Still, this day in history did not end the practice of slavery entirely. Thousands of accounts from Black Americans document their continued enslavement beyond Juneteenth—some not freed until as late as the 1960s, forced into labor and isolated from the advocacy being done through the Civil Rights Movement. Despite how complex this history may be, the freemen of Texas migrated throughout the United States, going North in an effort to unite their families ripped apart by the slave trade, carrying with them the importance of June 19, 1865.

From Local Celebration to National Holiday

Juneteenth is the longest running African American holiday. While celebrated by the Black community since the first holiday on June 19, 1866 and through the Reconstruction Era, Jim Crow, and beyond, this holiday was not adopted by White Americans who have historically refused to acknowledge or fund this celebration. Many history textbooks did not educate students on Juneteenth and many Black Americans living in northern states did not grow up celebrating it. Juneteenth’s history prevailed through sheer will and a fight for representation. Black activists have been fighting for Juneteenth to become a paid federal holiday for decades. It was only on July 17, 2021 that US President Joe Biden finally signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, declaring Juneteenth an official federal holiday. 

Black Americans have historically used Juneteenth as a day to reflect and mourn for what their ancestors lost as well as to celebrate how far they’ve come and how much they’ve prospered despite the persistence of racism. There is no right way to celebrate Juneteenth, but many black families get together, throw a barbeque, and eat red foods like a red velvet cake and strawberries alongside soul food staples. The red foods are eaten as a representation of the blood and sacrifices inflicted as a result of slavery.

While the declaration of Juneteenth as a federal holiday is a step forward in recognizing the resilience of Black Americans, there is more work to be done. The systemic challenges brought on by slavery continue to persist, including the racial wealth gap, disproportionate rates of incarceration, persistent health disparities, and police brutality. The United States still has a very long way to go in  providing true equity to everyone living within its borders. 

Commemorating Juneteenth as an Ally

How do you respectfully commemorate Juneteenth? As a white American or non-Black ally, Juneteenth is a day to confront this country’s horrific past and critically analyze the space you occupy. Repercussions of the slave trade still exist to this day, but there steps everyone can take to promote a more equitable society. 

Read below for a list of ways to get started:

Reflect on Institutional Racism: How are white people contributing to systemic racism and how do they want this country to evolve? This holiday is a great opportunity to think about racism and privilege. Allies can research the history of slavery and learn more about the origins and persistence of institutional racism. 

Learn About Black Culture and History: Study works by Black leaders, artists, poets, and activists. Juneteenth can be used as a time to challenge internalized white supremacy and have uncomfortable conversations with oneself and others. 

Support Your Neighbors: Show appreciation for the achievements of your fellow black citizens and support black businesses and organizations working to uplift black communities in America. 

Read a Book:

  • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
  • The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano: Or Gustavus Vassa, The African, Written By Himself by Olaudah Equiano
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley and Malcolm X
  • Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880 by W.E.B. Du Bois
  • Ar’n’t I a Woman?: Female Slaves in the Plantation South by Deborah Gray White
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  • Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? By Beverly Daniel Tatum
  • White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo 
  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  • Check out this list from the New York Public Library with books for kids to learn about and celebrate Juneteenth

Watch a Video:

Browse the Web:

Listen to a Podcast:

Visit a Relevant Museum Exhibition in Seattle:

Attend a Juneteenth Event:

Juneteenth at SAM

Juneteenth is a time for remembrance and healing. Americans can pay respects to the past and the enslaved Africans that built this country. Visit the Seattle Art Museum’s downtown location to see exhibitions and installations which reference this history. 

Photo: L. Fried.

Lauren Halsey (through July 17)

In her installation at SAM, 2021–2022 Betty Bowen Award winner Lauren Halsey shows artworks in which proud declarations of Black-owned businesses intermingle with images of Egyptian pyramids, the Sphinx, and pharaohs and queens, all drawn from a personal archive Halsey has developed through research and community interactions.

Photo: Nathaniel Willson.

Emblems of Encounter: Europe and Africa over 500 Years

Looking back 500 years, one can see the late 15th century as a major turning point in history. When Portuguese navigators first arrived on the shores of West Africa, the two continents of Europe and Africa began interacting in new ways. After a very brief period of mutual respect and commercial exchange, European traders quickly moved to exploit the region’s natural resources—including human labor—which became the basis for the massive slave trade that eventually affected twenty million Africans. The ten works of European and African art in this gallery, dating from the end of the 15th century to the end of the 20th, have been selected from SAM’s collection as examples of these interactions over time. 

Image: Nathaniel Willson.

Lessons from the Institute of Empathy

Three Empathics have moved into Seattle Art Museum and are a central feature to the latest installation imagined in our African art galleries. Now a part of SAM’s permanent collection, the Empathics have surrounded themselves with works from our African art collection as a way to help visitors awaken their own empathy.

A Path Forward

Hopefully, these resources can provide some guidance and insight as you celebrate Juneteenthand learn about the significance of this holiday to Black Americans. Black people have been fighting for centuries against white supremacy and oppression. However, true equity can only come when white people renounce their privilege against Black people and other people of color. All Americans must lend a hand to take action and spread knowledge to end the oppression that continues today. 

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

– Nelson Mandela

– Karly Norment Meneses, SAM Marketing Coordinator

Illustration: Karly Norment Meneses.

Muse/News: Life Pockets, Dance Artists, and Explosive Joy

SAM News

Seattle Met’s Allison Williams with a “Guide to Tide Pooling and Beach Combing around Seattle”; she includes the Olympic Sculpture Park’s pocket beach among the best places to observe sea life. 

Curiocity points readers to “11 awesome free or cheap date ideas in Seattle this summer,” including a visit to SAM using the Seattle Public Library’s Museum Pass. Hint: Here’s a long list of discounts or free days for visiting the Seattle Art Museum and the Seattle Asian Art Museum. (The Olympic Sculpture Park is free to all, every day!)

Make that date a deep dive into Our Blue Planet: Global Visions of Water, SAM’s spring exhibition that closes May 30! Seattle Met includes it on their list of “things to do” this week

Local News

royal alley-barnes, interim director for the City of Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture, talks with KUOW’s Kim Malcolm about Hope Corps, a new program “to help put artists back to work.”

Converge Media shares the news that ARTE NOIR has named Jazmyn Scott its new executive director; the Black arts & culture space opens this summer in the Central District’s Midtown Square.

“Seattle was once a hub for contemporary dance. What happened?” Local journalist Marcie Sillman for Crosscut on the city’s long history of nurturing dance artists—and the challenges they’re facing right now.

“Even as pandemic restrictions ease and theaters and clubs start to re-open, choreographers like Graney, Gosti and many others are struggling to stay in Seattle. Graney charges that nobody at City Hall, or anywhere outside the dance community itself, seems concerned that artists are being priced out of the city. ‘There’s no one at the helm who has an interest in dance,’ Graney maintains. ‘People don’t care, they just don’t care.’”

Inter/National News

Emmanuel Balogun for Artnet: “6 Artists at the 2022 Venice Biennale Who Are Shifting the Way We Visualize the African Diaspora.”

ARTnews’ Angelica Villa on the record-setting sale of an Ernie Barnes painting, which sold at 80 times more than its estimate.

The New York Times’ Robin Pogrebin on Lauren Halsey’s new work now on view at David Kordansky Gallery. You can see her work at SAM through July 17!

“At a time when many Black artists are being recognized for figurative art, Halsey has been making large-scale sculptures and reliefs. And while her installations may allude to economic hardship, gentrification, or gang violence, they convey an explosive sense of joy.”

And Finally

Via the Seattle Times: “9 great hikes in WA for people with wheelchairs, canes, crutches or strollers.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Chloe Collyer.

Muse/News: Sparks of Hope, Making Space, and Artist Robin Hoods

SAM News

“A must-see”: That’s Sophie Grossman of Seattle Met on Our Blue Planet: Global Visions of Water. She urges readers to visit the exhibition before it closes on May 30. 

You’ll walk away from these collected works sobered, perhaps, but buoyed by a spark of hope. If humans are capable of all this beauty and devastation, you might muse, what else could we accomplish? What visions for our planet, and our future as a species, could we realize?

London-based magazine New Scientist features the exhibition and how the artworks “bring water’s myriad meanings to life.” And art critic Susan Platt’s review of the exhibition appeared on Art Access. 

This not to-be-missed exhibition immerses, enchants, warns, and finally, hopes to inspire us to action. A video at the end, ‘Water Protectors,’ asks artists, activists, leaders, and scientists, to answer the question ‘What can people do to honor and protect water?’ We must all ask ourselves that question.”

KNKX rounds up ways to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month; the Seattle Asian Art Museum is on the list. 

And finally, a big thank you to the readers of 425 Magazine, who named SAM their favorite museum in the magazine’s reader poll!

Local News

Crosscut’s Brangien Davis devotes the bulk of her recent ArtSEA column to profiling Seattle author Angela Garbes, whose new book on motherhood and labor, “a blend of memoir, research and social commentary,” has just landed on bookshelves.

South Seattle Emerald shares an opinion piece from the Duwamish Tribal Council: “It’s 167 years past time to restore recognition of the Duwamish tribe.”

Via Grace Gorenflo of the Seattle Times: the City of Seattle’s Cultural Space Agency has made its first real estate purchase, parenting with Cultivate South Park on a 32,000 square foot area that will become a community-owned cultural space.

“For more than a century, Richter said, South Park residents have been unable to influence what happens in their own neighborhood, and El Barrio is a step to change that. ‘My hope for South Park is whatever South Park hopes for itself,’ he said. ‘The mission phrase that Coté brought to all of this is that the neighborhood should own the neighborhood. And implied in that ownership is control and agency.’”

Inter/National News

Via Katya Kazakina for Artnet: “An Ethereal Blue Warhol Marilyn Goes for $195 Million at Christie’s, Becoming the Second-Priciest Work Ever Sold at Auction.”

“A Sculptor’s Search for Humanity”: Lance Esplund for the Wall Street Journal on the Alberto Giacometti exhibition now on view at the Cleveland Museum of Art and heading to SAM this summer

Emily Watlington of Art in America on ways that artists are addressing the problems of inequity inherent in the art market and turning them to their—and their communities’—advantage, including Lauren Halsey, whose community-centered work is on view at SAM through July 17.

“I find myself equally inspired by artists putting their money where their mouth is, and moved by how they address immediate needs while carving space for long-term dreaming at the same time, balancing the practical and the ideal rather than choosing between the two. Each of these artists exemplifies a compelling degree of integrity; each refuses to plead powerlessness or sweep the contradictions under the rug. Can the institutions they work with keep up?”

And Finally

Celebrate and get familiar with the work of the 2022 Pulitzer Prize winners.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Chloe Collyer.

Muse/News: Date at SAM, New Leader at Wing Luke, and Cultural Data Rescue

SAM News

We love art, and we love love: Thrillist rounded up their picks for “where to go on a date this spring in Seattle,” including “spend a rainy afternoon at Seattle Art Museum” and “go on a self-guided tour of Olympic Sculpture Park.” 

Lauren Halsey’s solo show at SAM in which she “brings together the ancient and contemporary to celebrate Black culture” is a “top pick” in the Stranger

Rosa Sittg-Bell of The Daily at UW interviews SAM curator Natalia Di Pietrantonio about Embodied Change: South Asian Art Across Time, now on view at the Seattle Asian Art Museum.

“I find the body an interesting repository for different changes,” Di Pietrantonio said. “Many artists are really thinking about … [the] emotion of the body and expanding the body as part of the landscape or rethinking the parameters of the body. I felt that the body and thinking about emotions was very important to connect to activism.”

And Seattle Met includes Our Blue Planet: Global Visions of Water on their list of “things to do in Seattle”; the special exhibition opens to the public this Friday at SAM.

Local News

The Seattle Times has you covered with “what you need to know about mask, vaccine rules at Seattle-area arts and music events.” SAM’s policies continue to align with public health guidelines.

Crosscut’s Brangien Davis commemorates the two-year anniversary of pandemic closures with a return to pandemic art walks, visiting a new ecological installation along the Duwamish River by Sarah Kavage.

Seattle Magazine shares the news that Joël Barraquiel Tan is the new executive director of Seattle’s Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience.

“To me, this opportunity comes in the middle of the pandemic, in the middle of API (Asian Pacific Islander) hate, you have January 6,” he says. “It is about ‘what are you going to do in this moment?’ The cultural capital, the social capital (of the Wing Luke) is the Batmobile. What is going to happen in the next year? It is going to take strong institutions like Wing to get through this.” 

Inter/National News

ARTnews reports: Opening this week at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is the latest site-specific installation commissioned annually for the museum’s rooftop; this year’s creation is by Lauren Halsey, whose work is also on view at SAM!

The New York Times’ Holland Cotter on Fictions of Emancipation: Carpeaux Recast, a new show at the Metropolitan Museum organized around a single marble sculpture.

Via Artnet’s Sarah Cascone: “Ukrainian arts organizations are striving to protect the nation’s cultural heritage—including the websites and digital archives of its museums and libraries.”

“The new initiative Saving Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online (SUCHO) has been working around the clock to back-up and preserve data and technology, all of which are threatened by the war.”

And Finally

Dial 1-800-PEP-TALK (actually, it’s 707-998-8410).

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Natali Wiseman.

#SAMSnippets: Lauren Halsey

In celebration of Black History Month this February, we gave our Instagram followers an up-close look at artworks in Lauren Halsey, on view at our downtown location through July 17. Check back next month, as we choose a new SAM gallery to walk through as part of our live #SAMSnippets series and appreciate art from any location!

Highly attuned to growing gentrification in her neighborhood of South Central Los Angeles, 2021 Gwendolyn Knight | Jacob Lawrence Award winner Lauren Halsey, who studied architecture and art, celebrates Black culture by making space for representations of the people and places around her as a method of creative resistance. In her installation at SAM, the artist shows works in which proud declarations of Black-owned businesses intermingle with images of Egyptian pyramids, the Sphinx, pharaohs, and queens, all drawn from a personal archive Halsey has developed through research and community interactions.

Photo: Natali Wiseman.

The tour begins with a look at four carved gypsum relief panels which line the perimeter of the gallery. These four works—all untitled and created between 2019 and 2022—are reminiscent of temple walls. Each of these panels features fictional advertisements for local Black-owned businesses in South Central Los Angeles.

The final work shown in the video acts as the centerpiece to the gallery. This large-scale sculpture of colorful boxes stacked atop one another represent the metaphorical building blocks for future architecture while resonating with imagery from the past.

Photo: Natali Wiseman.

Through her archive and daily life, Halsey strives to record the unique expressions of her neighborhood before the forces of capital erase them. Placing these hyperlocal portraits, signs, and imagery in the context of real and imagined histories, the artist remixes ancient and contemporary cultures into a unifying vision.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Video Artworks: Untitled, 2020, Lauren Halsey, born 1987, hand-carved gypsum on wood, 48 x 48 x 2 7/8 in., © Lauren Halsey, Courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles. Untitled, 2019, Lauren Halsey, born 1987, hand-carved gypsum on wood, 48 x 48 x 2 7/8 in., © Lauren Halsey, Courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles. Untitled, 2020, Lauren Halsey, born 1987, hand-carved gypsum on wood, 95 1/4 x 71 3/4 x 3 in., © Lauren Halsey, Courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.
Untitled, 2022, Lauren Halsey, born 1987, hand-carved gypsum on wood, 48 x 48 x 2 7/8 in., © Lauren Halsey, Courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles. We Are Still Here, 2021, Lauren Halsey, American, born 1987, acrylic, enamel, metallic leaf, and CDs on Gator Board and wood, 108 × 103 × 41 1/4 in., © Lauren Halsey, Courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.

Muse/News: Halsey on View, Cat Towers, and P-Funk Approval

SAM News

Now on view at SAM: the solo exhibition for Lauren Halsey, the 2021 recipient of the SAM’s Gwendolyn Knight | Jacob Lawrence Prize. Artdaily announced the show, and family-focused Tinybeans included the show on their list of 13 Ways Families Can Explore Black History in Seattle.”

Northwest Asian Weekly has a mention of Embodied Change: South Asian Art Across Time, the inaugural exhibition by SAM’s first-ever curator of South Asian art. It’s now on view at the Seattle Asian Art Museum.

Local News

The Seattle Times’ Grace Gorenflo on the journalists of color who have joined Seattle’s KING5 in recent years, filling the shoes of the trailblazers who came before.

Here’s Berette S. Macaulay on “The Poetics of Barbara Earl Thomas” for the University of Washington College of Arts & Sciences webpage. The book for her recent solo show at SAM is available at SAM Shop.

Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel joins fellow art critics in experiencing a new installation of cat towers at the Museum of Museums.

“On a recent Sunday afternoon, three art critics sniffed, prowled, jumped and climbed their way through a new exhibit. Khione gravitated to a colorful installation featuring cloth orbs and plastic linked chains. Oliver climbed on top of an austere, spiraling sculpture made out of 4x4s, plywood, masonite and carpet. And Luna sat in a small separate room, processing her impressions.”

Inter/National News

Via Artnet: Another Super Bowl “friendly wager” of art sees a Robert Henri painting from the Cincinnati Art Museum heading to LA’s Huntington Library. SAM’s adventures in Super Bowl-ing in 2014 and 2015 are mentioned.

Tatler names “4 Power Couples of Design” from history, including the architects of the 1991 Seattle Art Museum building, Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi.

The New York Times’ T Magazine interviews the legendary George Clinton; he mentions Lauren Halsey as a current inspiration.

“Halsey said it was one of her dreams in life to design a stage for Clinton to perform on that would match the scale of the maximalist P-Funk concerts of the 1970s. And why not? If nothing else, Clinton’s career has been an ongoing argument that anything is possible. He  has a handful of live performances on the horizon, and when asked if he was planning to ever go back on tour, Clinton responded, ‘Oh, hell, yeah.’”

And Finally

An adieu to Café Presse from Bethany Jean Clement.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Natali Wiseman.

Muse/News: A Prize for Lauren Halsey, Sites of Power, and Prince in The Rain

SAM News

The downtown Seattle Art Museum will reopen to the public on March 5, just in time for the special exhibition, Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle. And there’s something else to look forward to: Last week, SAM announced that Lauren Halsey is the recipient of the 2021 Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Prize, which is awarded biannually to an early career Black artist. She’ll have a solo exhibition at SAM in winter 2021. ARTNews, Culture Type, Artdaily, Hyperallergic, Seattle Medium, The Stranger, and The Skanner all shared the news.

Local News

In honor of Black History Month, Charles Mudede and Jasmyne Keimig of the Stranger present “five extraordinary films directed by five extraordinary Black directors” they’ve virtually discussed as part of the Stranger’s Film Club over the past three months. Catch up!

“Funny, anxious, angry, discursive”: Stefan Milne of Seattle Met gets a sneak peek at (Don’t Be Absurd) Alice in Parts, poet Anastacia-Reneé’s new exhibition opening at the Frye Art Museum on February 11.

Margo Vansynghel of Crosscut interviews Natasha Marin about her new virtual exhibition, Sites of Power; part of her ongoing Black Imagination series, it features audio and video testimonies from Black creatives.

“For Black people, these are really unique and special moments because so many of our intersectional identities are sort of subsumed by our phenotypic Blackness,” Marin says. “People don’t want to see us as being possibly more than one thing at once — of both and and— happening all at the same time.”

Inter/National News

Artnet asks a slew of experts to name 12 artists “poised to take off” in 2021. On the list? Lauren Halsey, the LA-based artist just named the winner of SAM’s Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Prize.

ARTnews on Sam Pollard’s new documentary Black Art: In the Absence of Light, which devotes running time to exploring the legacy of artist David Driskell, who curated the landmark 1976 LACMA exhibition Two Centuries of Black American Art.

Julia Jacobs of the New York Times takes a look at the different approaches museums across the country have taken to the pandemic.

“Navigating the pandemic and shifting government responses has not been easy for museums. Some spent tens of thousands of dollars to try to make sure they could reopen safely in the fall for an art-starved public — only to be ordered to close again several weeks later as the outbreak worsened.”

And Finally

“He wants to know if you can make it rain harder”: The oral history of the best Super Bowl halftime show ever.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: land of the sunshine wherever we go, 2020, Lauren Halsey, mixed media on foil-insulated foam and wood, 97 x 52 x 49 inches. Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Allen Chen.
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