WHAT DOES JUNETEENTH COMMEMORATE?
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, is a celebration of the last enslaved people* learning about their freedom. The holiday originated in Galveston, Texas when enslaved people were informed of their freedom on June 19, 1865, despite Abraham Lincoln’s declaration TWO YEARS earlier in the Emancipation Proclamation that "all persons held as slaves within any States, or designated part of the State, the people whereof shall be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” An important note about the Emancipation Proclamation: it did not actually free all enslaved people in the United States, but just those living in Southern confederate states. As we will learn in greater detail in 7th and 8th grade, even after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and the Civil War ended, our country has still not delivered on its promise that “all (wo)man are created equal.”
WHY WAS THERE A 2-YEAR DELAY?
Local leaders. Abraham Lincoln sent a telegraph announcing the proclamation but The Texas Confederate refused to release enslaved people. It wasn’t until the directive was enforced by federal soldiers (two years later) that liberation came.
HOW IS JUNETEENTH CELEBRATED OR OBSERVED AROUND THE COUNTRY?
Texas was the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday in 1980 -- it took a LONG time! Forty-seven states around the country now observe Juneteenth. Governor Cuomo of New York State officially declared Juneteenth a paid holiday for state workers (similar to Veteran’s Day or Indigenous People’s Day) this week. On Juneteenth some families and communities celebrate by hosting parades, having a barbecue at homes or in parks, drinking red drinks, supporting Black-owned businesses, resting at home, reflecting, and connecting.
WHY DIDN'T I LEARN ABOUT THIS HOLIDAY IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL?
There are many important moments throughout history that have impacted Black lives that have been intentionally left out of history books and school curriculum. The problem is -- some of your teachers may not have learned from their teachers or families about Juneteenth, so the cycle of omitting important history continues! At Brooklyn Independent -- we’re trying to change that. We think it’s VERY important to learn all about Black history because Black History is American History.
WHY IS CELEBRATING JUNETEENTH NOW MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER?
Read this post from The Conscious Kid.
WHAT CAN I DO TODAY?
Sign the petition to make Juneteenth a national holiday! Encourage students to fill in the fields to play a more active role!
Read about Juneteenth books and the history of slavery. You can find a booklist here.
Watch the Juneteenth episode of Black-ish
*Enslaved People = as we have discussed with current BKI students, the term enslaved people is consciously used in place of slaves. Using enslaved as an adjective, instead of a noun humanizes those who were enslaved -- people weren’t slaves, they were enslaved.