To be clear, I am not a historian, or an expert in African American history or culture. I am a white woman and only learned of Juneteenth during my own personal integration and marriage to my husband. I feel it’s my duty to help educate my own white community, in an effort to bridge antiracist allies. My husband’s family originated in south Texas, black descendents of ancestors traced back to 1873. Black Americans know the date June 19th 1865 as the date that slaves finally learned of their freedom. As a white woman I had never heard of this nor did we ever learn or celebrate. This holiday deserves recognition as its deeply rooted in the beginnings of civil rights movements in our country. Let’s explore.
Juneteenth: End of Slavery
During the years of 1861-1865, the confederate army fought the Union in efforts to continue to keep and own slaves. The Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery 1863. So why is it that Juneteenth came two years later? The confederacy continued to fight the new law, so the slaves of TX learned of their freedom after the war finally ended. But not until after the slaves planted one more seasons crops.
Juneteenth Freedom or Not So Much
June 19th 1865 was the celebration of freedom, however was followed by hundreds of years of struggle. To begin with, slaves had nothing to show for the plantations built and crops wealth, they worked to help white men acquire. They had nothing. Their bodies free, but the dehumanizing also continued, lynchings, violence, rape. Hundreds of years of struggle for these black Americans whom worked to build their own communities, homes, crops and wealth. So although the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 gave black people freedom from slavery, they would continue to be subjected to racism for hundreds of years. This continues in parts of our country even today.
History of White Supremacy
The civil war ended, slavery was abolished, and black people became free, yet the bondage continued. White Supremacy never ended as evidenced by Jim Crow, the uprising of the KKK and other forms of the same. I recently learned from a Rocky Mountain PBS special that in the 1920’s, Colorado’s KKK was the 2nd highest per capita of the entire nation. This still evidenced today by the lack of diversity. Many historical figures, politicians and leaders of KKK and other white supremacist groups are blatantly honored by landmarks in their name. If we celebrate the accomplishments of these parts of heritage, while we ignore the celebrations and liberation of black people, are we really changing anything?
I love the ABC show Blackish which aires Tuesdays. If you haven’t seen it please check it out. On Season 4 episode 1, they created an entire show about Juneteenth, it was funny, clever and powerful. The dialogue around the reason and need for celebration of this holiday made sense. Juneteenth is a black holiday but It’s also an American holiday. We align as we celebrate, because we should all want the same freedom for everyone that we want for ourselves. Don’t we want a country where there is zero tolerance for the inhumane treatment and racism of it’s citizens? We need to celebrate that mindset. We need to celebrate the liberation, and freedom from slavery that Juneteenth represents.
Black Holiday and American Holiday
I honestly think Juneteenth is as important as Independence Day. I invite everyone to join your local Juneteenth celebrations. Here in my state of Colorado, linked are the many city local events, Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs, Loveland. I encourage everyone to research your own local celebration events and the movement to become a national holiday. There are network television Juneteenth celebrations. Or you can even host your own gathering with the intention to celebrate Juneteenth.
Juneteenth holiday is meant to serve as a reminder of the struggle in the abolishment of slavery and the violence and harm that still continues today. As we celebrate, we recommit to creating a pathway to fulfilling the 14th Amendment. Make this holiday a commitment for the equality and antiracism of this nation’s people.