Harriette Cole: Harriette shares history of Juneteenth

Harriette Cole: Harriette shares history of Juneteenth

DEAR READERS: Today is known as Juneteenth, though it is only in recent years that folks outside of the Black community have been aware of it. Given the renewed interest in civil rights that was sparked during the pandemic by the murder of George Floyd, it seems timely to share what this particular celebration represents.

Harriette Cole 

You probably know of the Emancipation Proclamation that officially declared the institution of slavery to be abolished nationwide. This proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862 during the Civil War and theoretically took effect in 1863. In reality, it took more than two years for the message to reach all of the slave states. Texas was the last to be informed and to accept that enslaved people must be freed. That message of freedom came on June 19, 1865 — hence the moniker “Juneteenth.” This date has been celebrated ever since in Texas, and over time nationally, as the official end of the enslavement of Black people in this country.

There are many dates in history that Americans know and gladly celebrate for what they represent. In 2020, Juneteenth was acknowledged more broadly than ever before, and many businesses chose to give their employees the day off, though it has not yet been declared a national holiday.

Why does this matter? It is important to understand history. Though heinous and unforgivable, the institution of slavery was bedrock in the making of the United States. It was upon the backs of free labor that this country was built. Because of chattel slavery, many white landowners became wealthy as they turned a blind eye to the humanity of the people who built that wealth for them. Is this hard to hear, to learn, to accept? Of course it is. But the discomfort doesn’t make it any less real.

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