On June 19, 1965 those enslaved in Texas FINALLY learned they were free – two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
I am embarrassed to say that Juneteenth was not even on my radar until a few years ago. I have asked my white friends when they learned about Juneteenth, and generally, it is the same for them. I know that it was not a part of the curriculum when I was in school; history that finds its way into classroom textbooks has been carefully curated. Literally, white-washed.
Even if it wasn’t explicitly taught in my history lessons, I have to ask myself: how did I miss it all these years? I am GLAD that that is cannot be overlooked any more. Last year, the Prince George’s County Council passed legislation recognizing June 19th officially as Juneteenth Day to symbolically commemorate Emancipation. In March, the Maryland Legislature passed HB448, making June 19th as a holiday in our state. Better yet, just yesterday, Congress voted overwhelmingly to make Juneteenth a Federal Holiday.
There are celebrations all over, including a few in our area:
As I reflect on and continue to learn about Juneteenth, I recommit to seek out all the rich history I did not learn. So many of the celebrations, triumphs, achievements and inventions of and by African-Americans do not have their rightful place in our history. I hope that is changing. In the meantime, at least I can choose to know more.