WeRISE is celebrating Thursday’s news that Juneteenth is now a recognized Federal holiday, while understanding that without racial justice through legislative and policy changes, and economic and political equity, such federal recognition is merely another hollow symbolic gesture. On this day, we take time to remember the agency of the enslaved in bringing about their emancipation – those who enlisted in the Union Army, those who aided Union military efforts by serving as nurses, scouts, and spies, as well as those who self-liberated.
Congress passed the 13thamendment on January 31, 1865, however, many enslaved Blacks did not experience an immediate reprieve. In some cases, white slaveholders simply refused to emancipate those they held in bondage. In June 1865, troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to force slaveholders to comply with the 13th amendment. Thus, Juneteenth commemorates the day when all Blacks in the former Confederacy were finally able to celebrate their freedom.
We encourage you to learn more about this nation’s history because, even though we are making strides, Blacks have yet to actualize the freedom our ancestors envisioned Emancipation would bring. Juneteenth is a time to celebrate Black freedom, Black agency, Black resistance, Black resilience, Black beauty, and Black joy. It is also a time to renew our commitment to achieving racial justice in our country and in our community. We must continue to push for restitution and equity, while (re)educating ourselves about Black history. We hope that you, your friends, and family have a wonderful Juneteenth National Independence Day!
Suggestions for further reading:
- Vincent Harding, There is a River: The Black Struggle for Freedom in America
- Susie King Taylor, Reminiscences of My Life in Camp: An African American Woman’s Civil War Memoir
- W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America