Sunday, June 19, 2022

Juneteenth - Celebrating the End Of Slavery

Congress established June 19th as a federal holiday to celebrate the end of slavery.  It is good that this occurred because ending slavery was an important milestone in American history.  As a history teacher educated in California, I had never heard of Juneteenth, probably because it was significant in Texas not the whole country.  This was the day two years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that slaves in Galveston, Texas were told that slavery had ended.  Apparently, this date has been acknowledged in Texas for years.  

However, as a history nerd, it would have been better if either the date of the Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863, or the day the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified on December 6, 1865 was celebrated because the 13th Amendment in particular is the day that slavery was officially ended.   It is bad enough that most Americans don't know much about history; so when we do acknowledge something important, it would be nice if it was actually the right date.  The December 6th date would be best because schools are usually still in session so a great lesson could be implemented around this date.  

Either way, ending slavery certainly did not end discrimination.  In the South, after the Civil War, Jim Crow laws were enacted by the Democrats who ruled those states that made life miserable for Blacks in those states.   While things were somewhat better in the North, Blacks who migrated from the South faced terrible discrimination there too.  It would take a 100 years before laws were enacted to protect the rights of Black including voting and other civil rights.

The good news is that today there are thousands of Blacks holding local, state and federal offices.  For the most part, voter suppression is a myth.  While there are people of all colors living in poverty, there are also millions of successful Blacks in business and many professions.  And, let's not forget that we elected our first mixed race President and Vice President.  Yes, the struggle has been long and hard; but like others that came to America as immigrants many Blacks have overcome years of discrimination to experience the American dream.   

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