A mere 156 years ago, on June 19, 1865, enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, were finally notified that slavery had ended in the United States. By the time federal troops brought word to this last and most remote bastion of slavery, two-and-a-half years had passed since the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Juneteenth (also known as African American Freedom Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, Jubilee Day, or Emancipation Day) commemorates this momentous event – one far too long in coming.
Last year, Massachusetts’ governor proclaimed June 19 a state holiday to recognize “the continued need to ensure racial freedom and equality.” All other states have done the same over time, with three doing so only this year. Legislation establishing Juneteenth National Independence Day as a federal holiday was signed into law by President Joseph Biden yesterday, June 17, 2021, after finally passing through Congress. This recognition represents a heightened awareness and acknowledgment of our history, but the country as a whole has been slow on this front.
The United States continues to grapple with systemic racism and its effects. The deep and pervasive scars left by our nation’s history of slavery and systemic racism remain -- their impact addressed too slowly, their existence sometimes not even recognized and/or acknowledged. This begs the question: Is enough being done by individual people, groups within society, and society as a whole to ensure equality, equity, inclusion, and justice for all? And is it timely?
Progress should be celebrated. Juneteenth serves as a beacon of hope; a reminder of what can and should be. But much work remains. Continued honest self-reflection, dialogue, learning, and action are critical at this juncture.
We believe Black Lives Matter. We continue working towards inclusion, equality, equity, and justice. We continue standing in solidarity with those who speak out against systemic racism and oppression and work to dismantle it. We continue to stand with the African American and Black communities.
To learn more and access resources, click on the following:
“What is Juneteenth,” juneteenth.com: https://bit.ly/3cFXOtC
“The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth,” National Museum of African American History and Culture: https://s.si.edu/3gvFyV8
“Emancipation and the Meaning of Juneteenth” by Graham Russell Gao Hodges: https://bit.ly/2TxIRTC
“Juneteenth: The Growth of an African American Holiday (1865 - )” by Quintard Taylor: https://bit.ly/3xgQlJx