Addendum: This June Nineteenth will be a happy and special Juneteenth, because before we could publish this piece the Senate passed a bill to make Juneteenth a National Holiday. They heard the cries of people across America saying Juneteenth needs to be nationally recognized. Well done!
Juneteenth marks the day slavery finally was abolished in the US. It’s the day when Federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to force the release of slaves still in bondage. Make no mistake, the Emancipation Proclamation was two years old by this time, yet due to the lack of Union Troops in Texas, slavery was still viable.
Finally on June 19th 1865, Federal Troops rode into Galveston Texas, where General Granger read the Emancipation Proclamation and the Union soldiers made sure that all slaves were freed. Juneteenth was celebrated in Galveston, as well as other parts of Texas for years. Eventually, it spread to all the states gaining national recognition. Although celebrated throughout the US, it is not yet a National Holiday. That needs to change.
I am really not the right person to write about this holiday. I am White. I have no experience walking in the shoes of an African American man, woman, or child. I have never faced slavery, or the type of discrimination my Black brothers and sisters face on a daily basis. I have never feared my son would not come home, nor that my husband could be shot because of the color of his skin.
I have a very diverse group of friends, and although my African American friends are like brothers and sisters to me, I still don’t know how they feel. How they handle this pain, and walk in grace. However, I am not writing about a holiday of pain. I am writing about Juneteenth, a day of release, and freedom, of remembered activism.
What I do know is that although I am glad that Juneteenth is recognized, celebrated, and lifted up as a day of release, I am not sure why this holiday has not been widely taught in history classes. I do not remember this being taught in any history class I ever took. Instead, a banner strung across a main street in town that exposed me to the holiday. Until seeing it, I had no idea what it was.
I don’t understand why we are not treating everyday like Juneteenth. An entire race of people were released from slavery and horrific conditions in this nation. This deserves more than one day in one month of the year – and the pittance of “Black History Month”.
In order for true healing and celebration to happen, we must acknowledge that the White race was okay harming another race of people. I can’t wrap my head around that.
I am sorry, maybe I am way off base. I am White. My voice alone means nothing significant. However, we, as a race, need to lend our voices to yours. To speak words of respect and songs of unification in order to shape the reality of true equality. We, as a race, need to acknowledge the deep pain, and celebrate your triumphs, in order for the change to happen.
Perhaps our race needs to truly understand Juneteenth, why the Black Lives Matter Movement is so important (and it is), and why Juneteenth needs to be taught in all American history classes. Why Juneteenth must become a National Holiday.
Juneteenth is the beginning. We have so much work left to do to raze and eradicate the specter of racial inequality. Still, I know that with love and cultural understanding we can become one. Please lend me your voice, and leave a comment in the section below. Happy Juneteenth!
Looking for more? Check out these pieces by the MockingOwl Roost contributors and staff.
Sue Cook lives in Freeport, Illinois with her husband Randy and two dogs. Her passions include assistance dogs, rescue dogs, music, acting, theater, poetry, and Doctor Who. She’s been in both film and theater and is a regular cast member of the podcast Doctor Who’s Line is it….Anyway? Sue is an advocate for the use of Service Dogs to assist their disabled handlers to maintain their independence. Quigley’s Quest, her first children’s book, addresses how a dog becomes a Service Dog.