As most of us know, when the Civil War came to a close in 1865, an extremely large number of folks remained enslaved, particularly in truly remote areas. The word of slavery’s ending traveled very slowly- too slowly- and for those who were largely isolated from the Union armies, life continued as if freedom did not exist. And would have continued indefinitely if the slave owners could have gotten away with it!
The reality is that many folks don’t realize that Juneteenth actually commemorates a smaller moment that remains relatively obscure. I’m not referring to the signing of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, which technically freed slaves in the rebelling Confederate states (at least 250,000 remained enslaved for another 2 1/2 yrs), nor am I talking about the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865, which enshrined the end of slavery into the Constitution. I’m speaking about the moment when emancipation finally reached those in the deepest parts of the former Confederacy, like in the remote part of Texas for example.
When you think about it, Juneteenth represents the sad reality of how freedom and justice in the US has always been and probably will always be delayed for Black People, no matter how much we protest and advocate for and fight against racism and oppression. And what came from all of that advocacy and protesting after the end of the war? We saw a wave of lynching, imprisonment, and Jim Crow laws take a firm root in the country. And following that was the unbelievable disproportionate impact of mass incarceration, discriminatory housing policies, and a lack of economic investment to name a few critical, significant issues. But I digress.
Yesterday, June 16, 2021, the House has unanimously approved the Senate Bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, with only 14 GOP lawmakers opposing the Bill, which is amazing to be quite honest. This has been a long, long time in the making and to truly appreciate the significance of what this means, it’s crucial that we all have an accurate understanding of it’s history and the incredible fight and sacrifice of our Black leaders who made this possible. So however and wherever you choose to celebrate this momentous day, please take a minute to be fully present, mindful and genuinely reflect and give thanks and gratitude to the Ancestors.