If You’ve Never Heard of Juneteenth, You Are Not Alone.
Written by author Janea D. Harris (bio below)
There are a multitude of stories of Black history that often go untold. Stories that mirror the injustices of today and that are all too familiar to Black Americans. Juneteenth and the history around it, is one of them. Collectively, we set out to change the narrative and to become the authors of the stories that we want told, the stories that need to be shared. These are the stories that reflect our strength and resilience as a people. The history that details why, even today we fight passionately when we see our freedoms threatened.
If you have never heard of Juneteenth, you are not alone. While Juneteenth has been recognized by the state of Texas for many years, it was not until Thursday of this week that President Joe Bidden signed legislation designating it as a National holiday. However, the injustices took place for several years because the denial of education and lack of mass communication prevented many slaves from learning of their emancipation. This is a horrific example of what can happen when the lives of people of color are devalued by others and we are denied our basic rights. It was not until two and half years later on June 19th, 1865 that state officials in Texas officially recognized the law.
Many historians have set out to erase this shameful history from textbooks and they have for the most part, succeeded. In years past it was a lot simpler for a select few to shape the details of our history. The authors and publishers owned the development and printing process of history texts and there was no accountability or expectation of modern-day terms like equity, inclusion, or diversity. All these years later we all should be motivated to continue the fight for equity and inclusion on all fronts. Advancements in technology have been a godsend for the movement. Injustices and the violation of rights can now be documented instantly and quickly distributed, often exposing these injustices immediately. Black history has long been shaped by those who oppressed us, and we along with seekers of justice for all must change that narrative.
Though details of our history were purposefully excluded from textbooks, it was not forgotten. Blacks and their allies set out to record and pass down this history to their families. Hundreds of years of history are taught in schools, and it is not until the stories of a very few select Black Americans in the mid 1900’s that we begin to learn of the triumphs and strength of Black people. It is by design that for our children their first exposure to Black history is that of slavery and that hundreds of years of Black history that falls between are omitted. History that includes the Tulsa Massacre of Black Wall Street and the history of Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable, the Founder of Chicago.
Many of the stories of the black struggle that would elicit both understanding and empathy continue to go untold. We cannot afford to wait as school systems across the country spend time grappling with whether these stories are worth inclusion in textbooks. If any of what we are being taught is true, we must all know that what we are taught very early on shapes us into the adults we become. We must hold school districts accountable to adopting and teaching a history curriculum that is inclusive of all Americans. As we advocate for these changes, those of us who are able must lead the charge in educating our children about the complete history of America, including Black history. By taking the time to educate ourselves and our children about topics for which we see a gap, we are doing what it takes to change the narrative.
Delayed justice or actual freedom has long been a part of the life experience for Black Americans. The fight for equality is not new, nor or the systems put in place to deny Black Americans access to the same freedoms as White Americans. This past year has been particularly eye opening, bringing into focus the disparities for Black Americans across all sectors of life including healthcare, policing, politics, and education. What this incredibly difficult year has shown us is that many governing bodies and school systems can modify and adjust quickly when needed. Whether everyone chooses to acknowledge it or not, we are indeed amid a racism crisis and swift adjustments need to be made.
For Black Americans freedoms that come with an ‘asterisk’ are a part of our everyday life. These are often loaded with hurdles that make it more difficult for us to achieve equality. When states across the country implement laws that hinder our right to vote, we understand this is the newest attempt to deny us access to our basic rights as Americans. When many banks establish a ‘different’ set of rules for qualifying Blacks for home purchases, making the pathway to home ownership more difficult, we know this is indeed another hurdle. When we are interviewed for jobs to meet a quota, exceed expectations, but are never offered an opportunity, we know this is another attempt to stop our progression.
We celebrate Juneteenth, knowing we must continue to march, continue to fight for our right to vote, continue to fight for justice and continue to ask for everyone to commit to being antiracist. History has shown us repeatedly that if we don’t fight to make sure the truth of our stories are told, our history will modified, edited and most likely left out of the American story completely. We celebrate to make sure our stories of triumph are never forgotten.
Resources for additional information on Black history:
100 Amazing Facts About the Negro. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Black History Facts
Educate your children:
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History. Vashti Harrison
Little Leaders: Exceptional Men in Black History. Vashti Harrison
Janea D. Harris is an author and poet who loves how writing can inspire and motivate people to action. She enjoys writing for people of all ages and is often inspired by current events. Janea is the owner of Supherbooks, LLC and her published children’s books include, “Through the Window of Winter the Rabbit” (2020) and “All Girls Have Sup-HER Powers, The Power of Voice” (2019).
Prior to becoming an author, Janea spent over 15 years as an educator at both the secondary and post-secondary levels. When she is not writing, Janea loves spending time with her family, partaking of the arts and volunteering with various community organizations on the North Shore of Chicago, IL.