Juneteenth teaches us that we must keeping fighting
Last year, President Biden declared Juneteenth a federal holiday following a tumultuous year of racial reckoning in the United States and abroad. Juneteenth, named directly after June 19, 1865, when slaves in Galveston, Texas were informed of their emancipation, has become known and celebrated as the date that the last slaves were freed. However, this is a common misinterpretation that deserves a deeper look.
As we embrace this new holiday, it’s important to remember that Juneteenth took place more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation outlawed slavery in the Confederacy on January 1, 1863. This meant that slavery was still legal in other states that were not part of the rebellion including Delaware and Kentucky. The ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, almost six months after Juneteenth, is what finally made it unlawful under the constitution for slavery to exist in any of the United States.
While these may seem like small distinctions, they serve as a powerful reminder of a key element to our democracy: change does not take place in a day. Progress requires a dedicated fight for change and commitment to the consistent application of these changes in practice. As the second celebration of Juneteenth rolls around, I will be celebrating with my family and friends but not under the misguided preface that June 19, 1865, was the end of the slavery in the United States. Instead, I will recognize it for what it truly is: one of many long and necessary steps in the fight for equality and freedom.
Keeping with this same spirit, Juneteenth will also serve as a reminder for me of the many fights that remain ahead. Despite the progress that has been made since slavery ended, the fight for equality and inclusion continues to persist, and discrimination is evident in many facets of Black American life including housing, health, education, and jobs. Disparities in policing and targeted violence, such as the mass shooting that occurred in Buffalo on May 14, 2022, where the gunman methodically selected a supermarket in a Black neighborhood, make it clear that there is still much work left to be done.
As we officially celebrate Juneteenth for the second time and enjoy a well-deserved day off, let us not forget that the fight continues.