MVT Honors & Celebrates its Historical Connection to Juneteenth

Friday June 18, 2021

As we celebrate the addition of June 19 – or “Juneteenth” – as a legal federal and local public holiday, and make our community aware that we’ll once again provide our hard working Clean Team with paid time off starting noon today, we also recognize the day’s tremendous historic significance for our own Mount Vernon Triangle community.

Established on the 800 block of 3rd Street NW in 1848 as the second oldest African American Baptist Church in Washington, DC, Second Baptist Church (listed; National Register of Historic Places) was first housed in a large red brick building that served as a station on the “Underground Railroad” during the Civil War. The building remained in-service until 1865, the same year that all remaining enslaved people were proclaimed free in the state of Texas. The proclamation ultimately led to creation of the Juneteenth holiday as the oldest commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

Once the war ended and the building’s need as critical place of respite for black Americans seeking freedom was no longer necessary, the church operated a “pay school” for black freedmen in the vicinity of a successor small frame building that replaced the large red brick building. That small frame building was eventually replaced in 1894 by the structure – pictured below – that exists today.

History of Juneteenth
Even though President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation outlawing slavery in the United States in September 1862, its practice continued in Texas and other states of the Confederacy even after the enactment of the proclamation. On June 19, 1865, however, Union Army General Gordon Granger announced General Order No. 3 and proclaimed freedom from slavery in Texas, freeing all remaining enslaved people in the state. Until today, Juneteenth has been a holiday recognized and celebrated in most, but not all, states.

About the Juneteenth Holiday
Yesterday, June 17, President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act officially recognizing June 19 as a federal legal public holiday. Mayor Bowser also officially designated June 19, 2021 a legal public holiday for the District’s workforce. Because June 19 falls on a Saturday, today, June 18 is the legal public holiday for District government employees in accordance with District law.