Reflecting on Juneteenth | Facing History & Ourselves
Juneteenth Independence Day. Freedom or Emancipation day. Annual American holiday, celebrated on June 19. African American history and heritage. Poster, greeting card, banner and background

Reflecting on Juneteenth

Learn about the history and legacy of Juneteenth and how modern awareness of this commemoration has grown and raised the profile of this important holiday.
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This article was originally published in 2020. Since its publication, Juneteenth has become a federal holiday. The Juneteenth National Independence Day Act passed the House and Senate in June 2021 and was then signed into law.

Described as a second independence day, June 19 or Juneteenth marks the day that emancipation reached slaves in the farthest reaches of the South. While the Emancipation Proclamation legally announced that all slaves held within the rebellious states were freed in 1863, plantation life continued as though no change had occurred in many parts of the slaveholding south until this day in 1865.

Juneteenth is a time to reflect upon this history, including the steps toward liberty that have been achieved and the forces that continue to undermine the freedom of African Americans.

For some Americans Juneteenth entered public consciousness in 2020 when it was announced that then President Trump’s re-election campaign would hold a rally on that date in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the site of what is considered the worst race massacre in American history. These plans were amended after provoking a wave of criticism about the insensitivity and even threat contained in such a decision.

One thing is certain: finding the gumption to face our history, connect it to current events, and take action remains as crucial as ever. 

Facing History invites you to learn more about the continuing significance of Juneteenth and the legacies of slavery in contemporary society with the following resources. A good place to start is this Juneteenth Video Timeline from Facing History located below: 

Juneteenth (June 19th) is a celebration of abolition, liberation, and justice.

It commemorates the date in 1865 when hundreds of enslaved people in Texas were finally liberated and chattel slavery came to an end in the United States.

1862-63: President Abraham Lincoln proposes and enacts the Emancipation Proclamation calling for the abolition of slavery in the United States beginning January 1, 1863.

1865: The American Civil War ends and congress adopts the 13th Amendment to the constitution, officially outlawing slavery in every state. General Gordon Granger is dispatched to Texas, the final state of the confederacy, to enforce the emancipation of the hundreds of people who remained enslaved there. 1866: Formerly enslaved people gathered in Galveston, Texas for the first 'Day of Jubilee' in celebration of their liberation.

1980: The state of Texas becomes the first in the nation to recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday.

2021: The United States Senate unanimously votes to commemorate Juneteenth as a federal holiday.

On Juneteenth

Article: “Why Celebrating Juneteenth is More Important Now Than Ever”
P.R. Lockhart outlines why it’s time for America to truly grapple with its legacy of slavery.

Essay: “What Juneteenth Means on a President’s Plantation”
An address in observance of Juneteenth at Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage Plantation on June 18, 2017 by Crystal A. deGregory, PhD.

Video: Freedom Calling
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture Founding Director Lonnie Bunch III leads a virtual tour of the Slavery and Freedom exhibition. 

On the Impact of Slavery and Its Contemporary Legacies

Special Issue: The 1619 Project
The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.” -The New York Times Magazine

Film: 13TH directed by Ava DuVernay
“In this thought-provoking documentary, scholars, activists and politicians analyze the criminalization of African Americans and the US prison boom.” ⁠-Netflix

Television: When They See Us created by Ava DuVernay
“Five teens from Harlem become trapped in a nightmare when they're falsely accused of a brutal attack in Central Park. Based on the true story.” ⁠-Netflix

Book: The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
“An intensely personal and provocative document from the iconic author of If Beale Street Could Talk and Go Tell It on the Mountain. It consists of two ‘letters’ written on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, that exhort Americans, both Black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism. Described by The New York Times Book Review as ‘sermon, ultimatum, confession, deposition, testament, and chronicle...all presented in searing, brilliant prose.’” ⁠-Vintage Books

Book: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
“Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.” ⁠-Random House

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