Juneteenth, it’s American History | Chicago North Shore Moms

Juneteenth, it’s America’s History. An essay by Janea D. Harris

On June 18th, 2021 President Biden issued a Proclamation declaring Juneteenth a National Holiday. Though its impact on all of us cannot be questioned, for decades June 19th and the history behind its inception failed to meet the criteria for inclusion in history books and classroom lessons across our country. In recent years, many began to advocate for the inclusion of Juneteenth as an integral part of our history. Lessons of its importance finally made their way into classrooms, but often only during Black History Month and even then, the scope of its impact on our country was often limited.

Juneteenth is monumental in that celebrates the freeing of slaves. Although President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in1863, word of it did not reach enslaved Africans in Texas until June 19th, 1865, more than two years after it was signed. Ironically, over a century later, with all the advances in technology, we find ourselves still fighting for the right for Black History, which is American History to be told in classrooms. As we celebrate, we are embroiled in a constant battle to have our stories included as part of history lessons. Why is there persistent hesitation by some to share the truth?

We all have heard the saying, “Knowledge is power,” and efforts to limit knowledge as it pertains to Black History persist today. Many historians have set out to erase shameful instances in 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 textbooks and there was no accountability or expectation of modern-day terms like equity, inclusion, or diversity to be included. Though details of our history were purposefully excluded from textbooks, it was not forgotten.

Black people 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 most children their primary exposure to Black history is that of slavery. Unfortunately, that means hundreds of years of Black history that falls between those years are omitted. History that includes the Tulsa Massacre of Black Wall Street, or the fact that that Ida B. Wells led a campaign against lynching or the history of Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable, the Founder of Chicago. Eventually, many historical scholars came forward following the Civil Right movement and acknowledged the value in teaching ‘Black History’ to everyone. As interest, exposure and critique expanded, new methods to prevent its inclusion in curriculum developed. When efforts to circumvent the history from being included in books failed, there was a shift to ban the books all together.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The fight for inclusion, equality and representation is not new, nor or the systems put in place to deny Black Americans access to the same freedoms as White Americans. Hundreds of years later, a select few are on a mission to re-write both history and the dictionary. There are those who are attempting to redefine the meaning of words like equity and inclusion. If we exclude terminology that clearly defines our plight, it becomes a bit easier to minimize our struggle and our struggle is clearly not over.

We celebrate Juneteenth, knowing we must continue to fight for equality, 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 that the truths of our stories are told, our history will modified, edited, most likely left out of the American story completely and even worse repeated. We celebrate to make sure our stories of triumph are never forgotten.

 

Resources for additional information on Black history:

History:
What is Juneteenth?

Educate Yourself:
The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth
The National Museum of African American History and Culture

Educate your children:
A Juneteenth Celebration
Time for Kids

About the author of this essay

Janea D. Harris is an author, poet and education consultant who loves how writing can inspire and motivate people to action. She is the owner of Supherbooks, LLC and her published books include, YA Poetry book, “Poetry is My SupHER Power” (2023). Children’s Books, “Through the Window of Winter the Rabbit” (2020) and “All Girls Have Sup-HER Powers, The Power of Voice” (2019). Janea has contributed to multiple Poetry Anthologies and her poem, Urban Desert was a “Best of the Net,” nominee (2021).

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.

Learn More: www.supherbooks.com

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