Juneteenth. An aphorism? A portmanteau? A celebration marking the end of slavery? It seems that in a time where the holiday is more widely celebrated nationally than ever before, many questions still remain for a majority of the country.
This is the first time I’ve ever received the day off from work to commemorate Juneteenth. Many are aware of the term, but are hard-pressed to describe it to others. A simple internet search lets you know that “Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.” However, it does raise questions for many that feel puzzled about why they never learned about this event in their elementary schooling.
Interestingly, the June 19 event in Texas actually happened two and half years after Lincoln’s much-revered (and widely-taught) Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. As I understand it, these 250,000 enslaved people living in Texas simply did not know they were free, either as a result of poor communication in the era and/or, most likely, an unwillingness to inform them of their freedom on behalf of the slave owners.
With the heightened tensions around race and obscured or whitewashed history, it seems like a great opportunity for us to educate ourselves on why this holiday has long been celebrated by so few and overlooked by so many.
Some resources to read up on Juneteenth that I’ve stumbled upon: