Breaking Free on Juneteenth

Celebrating The History That Isn’t Taught in Classrooms

by Taylor Lonas

It wasn’t until I was twenty-years old and a student in college that I became fully aware of the

significance of June 19th . Commonly known as Juneteenth, this date signifies the liberation of the

250,000 African Americans that were enslaved in Texas in 1865. This occurred nearly two and a

half years after Abraham Lincoln granted freedom with the issuance of the Emancipation

Proclamation in January of 1863. Thus, Juneteenth is a testament to the long-standing resiliency

and fortitude of our ancestors. This country has continually proven that justice and equity has

never been a priority when discussed in relation to the Black community.

Perhaps this is why the event continues to evade historical textbooks and classroom curriculums.

Black youth are instead encouraged to celebrate the fourth of July with sparklers, barbecues, and

thousand-dollar firework displays put on by cities across the country. Little do they know, these

festivities in observance of “Independence Day” are not applicable to their ancestors who

continued to toil long after America gained its independence.

This year’s celebration of Juneteenth will mark the 155th anniversary since its first

commemoration. While forty-five states and Washington, D.C. recognize Juneteenth as a state

holiday, it has yet to receive federal observance. Although African Americans continued to

experience oppression, discrimination, and prejudice once freed, they victoriously rallied around

June 19th and made the celebration of this date an annual affair. In the early 1870s, a group of

formerly enslaved families collected eight hundred dollars to purchase ten acres of land upon

which they could freely gather and celebrate amidst strict segregation laws. This plot of land

became known as “Emancipation Park” and was a site of celebration for many years.

Celebrations traditionally included food, prayer, and festivities of sport and entertainment. These

events sought to honor Black history, heritage, and achievement.

Although African Americans continue to face violence, mass incarceration, and economic and

educational inequity, we must remember the sacrifices of those who came before us and note the

progress that has been made. Just as importantly, we must ensure that future generations are

learning about this historical victory in our homes, if nowhere else.

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