Could you imagine living in an human trafficking system your entire life only to find out that you had been freed from the system without knowledge? On June 19th, 1895 in Galveston, Texas, Union soldiers shared news to over 250,000 enslaved persons who did not know that they had been freed a few years prior at the singing of the Emancipation Proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation was signed by then President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1963. These Black were the last to receive the news that the war was over. These Union soldiers declared good news 2.5 years after they were already liberated.
Many of the plantation owners tried to keep the news from the enslaved, but they could not keep it forever. You can delay freedom, but you cannot deny it. It is not a secret that white people enjoyed having free labor on their property to maintain their family wealth. Capitalism was born on the plantation, and it has continued on into our national government. Thousands of free people still living in bondage without knowing that they were actually free.
Living free but unaware of that free status. Yet, here we are in 2021, still hoping and dreaming of freedom. While chattel slavery is over, there are still other forms of discrimination and injustices in America. From student loans to gentrification, there are systems that are still in place preventing African Americans and people of color from having full access to the American Dream.
And so there was Juneteenth. A day that African Americans can celebrate emancipation. As a self identifying Black Woman, I can truly say that this here holiday is our Independence Day. The 4th of July may be America’s Independence Day, but my ancestors were still in bondage. As a descendant of the Washington Plantation, my family received freedom early by George Washington. However, that was not the case for all Africans living in America at that time. It was certainly not the case for any Africans living in America at the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution of the United States.
Today, millions of African Americans celebrate Juneteenth with parades, cookouts, and other festive celebrations. However many people around the country still do not know the history or even the significance of this day. This is why it is important to continue to share the story and to continue to pass down the history. This is not a day or a subject matter that is taught in schools, but we, the community must continue to lift it up.