“Let Freedom Ring, Facing the rising sun (the sun, the sun, the sun) of our new day begun (of our new day begun) Let us march on (march on, march on, march on) till victory
Let us march on (march on, march on, march on) till victory is won”
–from “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (aka The Negro National Anthem”) by James Weldon Johnson
On June 19, 1865 Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas with news that the Civil War had ended and that enslaved people were now free–this news came two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation had rendered slavery illegal (although It applied only to Confederate states that had seceded from the United States, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states). That day in history is now known as Juneteenth.
There are so many stories about why enslaved people in Texas only learned of their freedom so long after emancipation; some say the messenger with news of freedom was murdered, others say enslavers and profiteers withheld the news so they could continue to take advantage of forced laborers. Some even wondered whether President Lincoln had any influence in the rebellious states. In all cases, the news of freedom remains a cause for celebration for Black people all over the United States. It matters more than ever right now. It is also a call for all of us to be vigilant about our education and knowledge about our rights.
Now in 2020, there will be many celebrations of African American resilience, including live and virtual events at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and at the Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn. And if you’re in the City, here’s a list of of places where you can March, Mourn, Protest at a social distance.
Please watch: “This is Why Juneteenth Is Important for America” (from The Root, June 19, 2018)