Thursday, June 8th is Brooklyn-Queens Day
Brooklyn-Queens Day originated as a Protestant holiday celebrated in the City of Brooklyn in 1829. Back then it was known, and fondly remembered by some, as Anniversary Day. Anniversary Day is celebrated annually on the first Thursday in June, commemorating the founding of the First Sunday School on Long Island. The first parade was held in Brooklyn June 1829.
The New York State Legislature enacted, in 1959 at the request of the Queens Federation of Churches, the bill permitting the schools in both Kings and Queens Counties to be closed on this day. It was signed by Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller.
A tradition in Queens and Brooklyn since 1829 has bitten the dust. This year, Brooklyn-Queens Day, formerly celebrated only in the two boroughs for which it was named, will give students throughout New York City the first Thursday in June as a day off from school. (Their teachers will still be working, attending staff development meetings).
Brooklyn-Queens Day, also known as Anniversary Day, was first held to celebrate Sunday Schools being organized in the two boroughs. Although in an 1893 account schoolchildren were expected to say "Christian things" about their teachers, there is no indication that children whose families followed other faiths were excluded from the celebrations, which included parades and banners. Students and teachers in the two boroughs got an extra holiday and while some people in the other boroughs grumbled a little, no one challenged the idea. Nor is there any indication that anyone took exception to church and state harmoniously commingling, although the observance of Brooklyn-Queens Day, or Anniversary Day, however one chooses to refer to it, took on increasingly secular connotations as the years went by.
For a century and a quarter, students and teachers at schools in Brooklyn and Queens, to the envy of their counterparts in the three other boroughs, got the first Thursday in June (the second Thursday if the first Thursday fell in the same week as the Memorial Day holiday) off from school with no remark from anyone. Then in 2005 the United Federation of Teachers and the New York City Department of Education signed a new contract. Among its provisions was one extending Anniversary Day to schools in Manhattan, Staten Island and The Bronx. As of this year, 2006, students will have a holiday, while teachers will attend sessions fostering professional development.
26 May 1881, New York Times, pg. 2:
BROOKLYN'S GREAT DAY.
A SUNDAY-SCHOOL PARADE IN WHICH THOU-
SANDS OF CHILDREN JOINED
The fifty-second anniversary of the Brooklyn Sunday-School Union was celebrated in that city yesterday with great ceremony. The parade, which is the feature of these annual celebrations, brought out fully 50,000 children and Sunday-school officers and teachers, the largest number, it is claimed, that ever participated in one of these celebrations.
29 May 1884, Christian Union, "Anniversary Day in Brooklyn," pg. 527:
WEDNESDAY, May 21, was the much-thought-of "Anniversary Day" which has now become an institution of the city of Brooklyn. For weeks before this day, which is always appointed by the Brooklyn Sunday-School Union for the third week in May, the day is lloked forward to with greater or less dread by the mothers of the children, and with corresponding hopefulness by the shopkeepers of the city, for the coming of Anniversary Day means to them increased business.
1 June 1896, New York Times, "Anniversary Days in Brooklyn," pg. 8:
Gov. Morton will be in Brooklyn Friday to review the children connected with the Brooklyn Sunday School Union, on the occasion of their annual parade. Anniversary Day is the greatest day in the year for the little ones.
10 June 1910, New York Times, pg. 18:
125,000 IN PARADE
OF SUNDAY SCHOOLS
Eighty-fifth Anniversary of the
Event Celebrated by Brook-
lyn's Child Army.
For the vast army of Sunday school pupils of the great borough of churches yesterday was the day of days of all the year -- Anniversary Day.
5 October 1911, New York Observer and Chronicle, Brooklyn, pg. 441:
Seven hundred children of the Sunday-school in connection with the South Reformed Church, the Rev. W. J. MacDonald, pastor, observed Rally Day on Sept. 17.
3 November 1941, New York Times, "1,000 Parade in Queens," pg. 24:
A thousand boys and girls in colorful uniforms paraded in Queens yesterday afternoon at the annual rally day of the Boys and Girls Catholic Brigade.
5 June 1959, New York Times, pg. 16:
2 BOROUGHS HAIL
150,000 March in Brooklyn,
on 130th Anniversary, and
25,000 in Queens
About 150,000 persons of all ages participated yesterday in the 130th Anniversary Day parades of the Brooklyn Sunday School Union.
In Queens, for the first time, all publics schools were closed by act of the Legislature. Heretofore, closings on Anniversary Day were optional. Nearly 25,000 persons in eleven communities took part in the Queens parades.
6 June 1991, New York Times, Brooklyn-Queens Journal, "Vestige of Another Era: Where's the Parade?" by Dennis Hevesi, pg. B3:
There was a time when Brooklyn-Queens Day -- sometimes called Anniversary or Rally Day -- was cause for tumultuous celebration.
"The City of Brooklyn, in 1816, had a Brooklyn Sunday School Union Society. And on June 26, 1838, the first annual parade of Sunday schools took place. This is the beginning of Anniversayr Day parades in Brooklyn and Queens.
"By 1896, what was then called Rally Day is observed throughout the borough. (...) In 1910, you have your first Sunday School Association Day Parade in Queens, sponsored by the Ridgewood-Glendale Sunday School Association." And every year since -- though it was only in 1959 that the legislature officially extended the holiday to Queens -- public schools have been closed one day a year in both boroughs.
5 June 2003, New York Times, "School's Out? Here's a History Lesson About Brooklyn-Queens Day" by Abby Goodnough, pg. B4:
So listen up: the State Legislature passed a law in 1905 making the first Thursday in June an annual holiday for the public schools of Brooklyn. The purposed was to celebrate "the founding of the Sunday school movement in Brooklyn." (...) In 1959, the Legislature extended the holiday to Queens, where Sunday school students also had begun annual parades.