“Every year we must remind successive generations that this event triggered a series of events that one by one defines the challenges and responsibilities of successive generations. That’s why we need this holiday.” — Al Edwards, American Politician
There was a time when a few people knew of this holiday. When this particular holiday—even still—was never mentioned in textbooks; it was never given a bolded and defined textual section to show it as being a part of U.S. History. A time when it was not noted or printed on calendars when social media was not able to help bring awareness of the prominent history of this date. Even now, at a time when it is not a national holiday.
This holiday being Juneteenth.
Juneteenth—also known as Freedom Day, Black Fourth of July, or Cel-Liberation Day—commemorates the day of June 19th (1865) when Texas, the last Confederate state, finally let their slaves be free which gave freedom to all slaves in the United States of America. According to history, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation (1863) to stop the spread of slavery to the West which is what the South (primarily Texas) wanted. The Union (Northern) states immediately freed their slaves, however, because Texas solely believed in the Confederacy of the South; they fought to keep their slaves– hence the Civil War. It took the Confederate state, after fighting two and a half years, to lose the war so their slaves could receive their “freedom.”
As an African American, I have had the privilege of being educated on history in predominantly all-black schools—from grade school to post-secondary—I can say that, from what I remember, Juneteenth was a moment in history that was not heavily taught let alone discussed in the classrooms. Was there a discussion of slavery? Of course. Was I educated on how Europeans started the Atlantic Slave Trade in 1619, forcibly taking Africans from their native land to bring them to U.S. soil in search of laborers to build their “New World”? Yes, I was. Was I educated on the abuse, mistreatment, and everlasting pain that the slaves endured while building this country from the ground up as the white men and women sat back and took the credit? Yes. Yet, to this day, African Americans have not been accredited for the extraordinary infrastructure of America, nor have we obtained the well-deserved reparations for slavery.
We are miseducated or not educated at all about our Black history. We are constantly feared and abused, and somehow we are the ones that are a threat. This is the harsh history and reality of “the land of the free.”
In honor of Juneteenth, and because I did not get the chance to read much for Black History month; for the month of June I—amongst many other avid readers—decided to devote my readings for the month only of books written by African American authors. From Non-fiction to Fantasy, to Poetry, it is pertinent that the story of Black Lives continues to be told and that we are in full support of those who write them.
My reading list includes:
– The Beast Side: Living and Dying While Black In America written by D. Watkins
– SLAY by Brittney Morris
– A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
– Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson
– The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez