Juneteenth has become a major celebration in recent years. Due to the dismissal of multiple communities in American History, its honestly a historical event many don't become aware of until adulthood.
Juneteenth is celebrated every year on June 19th. This is when victims of chattel slavery were finally told they were free, two and half years after the fact.
This is a day that brings up mixed emotions, controversial opinions and serves as hope for not repeating the terrorist act of enslavement again.
Even though President Abraham Lincoln had issued an executive order, later known as the Emancipation Proclamation, in September of 1862 to be effective January 1, 1863 (the Emancipation Proclamation granted freedom to the slaves in the Confederate States if the States did not return to the Union by January 1, 1863), Texas chose to ignore it.
Therefore, a missive known as General Order 3 was delivered in Galveston, Texas, and read by Major General Gordon Granger of the Union soldiers. Stories have been retold to say women, men, and children were cheering & dancing before the orders reading was completed. On the other end, some were leery of the news because freedom seemed so far-fetched an idea. This day is always describing as one that lifted people's souls.
. . .
As a black woman, wife, mother, and educator that stands for justice I can't ignore all of the policy and law changes that were skipped over when this holiday was granted. I definitely used to feel like this as a bone thrown to my community while ignoring fixing our corrupt judicial system and re-structuring our education system.
It was also bittersweet with this holiday not being able to be enjoyed by everyone in the black community because we have been even more marginalized since the COVID pandemic. Reports have confirmed numerous times that the black and brown communities were the highest demographic of essential workers.
I have to remind myself to remain positive for even the baby steps. I used to struggle with this holiday because it is essentially celebrating that Texas FINALLY telling Africans victim of chattel slavery that they were free. I couldn't move past the 2 year lie. I couldn't move past Texas' audacity and how this audacity has often defined them historically. I've grown to a space where I can acknowledge the validity of my feelings and relish in the immense love and community centering that takes place on Juneteenth. Two things can be true at the same time. I feel this should be discussed & taught, its just sad it needed to occur in the first place.
Some may read this and think I sound a tad negative. My response to this is, this is the black experience, it's not always easy to bypass the continuum of trauma, violence and dismissal for the few times we are seen in America. We learn to cope in our various ways without pushing things to the side or overlooking what requires acknowledgment (and accountability).
As I have grown in my perspective I can't write this blog without mentioning the fight for freedom continues. Juneteenth is acknowledged, but black people are still being killed by people who often walk free. Books that are inclusive and progressive as being banned in schools (the same books many scurried to purchase after George Floyd's murder). So many laws need changing (or uprooting). We still have far to go.
I can only hope this is a first step to introducing American history in schools that doesn't majorly tell one side of the story.
How is Juneteenth Celebrated?
Many communities throw block parties, have spiritual centered events, marches, cook-outs, and it's also a day people are more intentional about supporting black owned businesses. Families are also more intentional about incorporating books about Juneteenth to read together.
Here are some children’s and Middle Grade books to check out and expand your libraries with more American History that acknowledges the black community.