On this day, June 19, 1865 -- 152 years ago -- in Galveston, TX, many slaves learned for the first time that they were free in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation. Despite the fact that it had been issued two-and-a-half years before, slaveholders had suppressed this information in areas still under confederate control.
Newly freed men and women celebrated in the streets, and the news spread quickly to the state’s 250,000 enslaved, now free, people -- and across the south. Soon after, Juneteenth was born – a jubilant celebration marked by remembrance, gospel hymns, church services, parades, BBQs, family reunions, and more.
As we know all too well, however, the holiday is not recognized as it should be. And, this year with our country as divided as ever, it’s as important as ever for us to recognize its significance, not only for Black Americans, but for every American, including White Americans. In his 2015 NYT Op-Ed “Juneteenth Is for Everyone,” Kenneth C. Davis says: “The day should be recognized for what it is: a shared point of pride in the symbolic end of centuries of racial slavery — a crime against humanity and the great stain on America’s soul. As meaningful as Independence Day itself, Juneteenth begins the process of reaffirming ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ as the rights of all, not a select few.”