Juneteenth – Happy Freedom Day!

I’ve been teaching this whole year based on the theme “Time and Place”, so I seem to live from holiday to holiday. Recently it’s been Earth Day to Cinco De Mayo to Memorial Day, and now Juneteenth. Even though we celebrated Black History Month in February and talking about the history of African Americans then, Juneteenth is a time to specifically commemorate the ending of slavery in the United States. It was on June 19th, 1865 that the abolition of slavery was announced in Galveston, Texas and the Emancipation Proclamation that Lincoln declare two years earlier was finally enforced.

Because I like to think of my classroom as a virtual traveling time machine, we take the week or two leading up to Juneteenth to recall important landmarks and figures (black and white) in the history of slavery and emancipation.

Here is a list of places that we “visited”:

1. Booker T. Washington National Monument, a well preserved plantation that highlights major aspects of slave life in general and the life of Booker T. Washington specifically.
2. Boston African American National Historic Site, because it’s important to remember that not all blacks were slaves, especially in the North, especially in Boston, where African Americans owned homes, businesses, and land pre-Civil War.
3. Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park, where John Brown led his heroic insurrection against slavery and the site of one of the largest Civil War battles.
4. George Mason Memorial, commemorating the man who withheld his signature from the U.S. Constitution because it did not abolish slavery.
5. United States National Slavery Museum.
6. New York Historical Society, where we took a nice field trip where we saw artifacts from New York’s involvement in the slave trade.

As a not so well known holiday, Juneteenth has lately been getting significantly more press. Once only a holiday in Texas, Juneteenth is now observed in 26 states, including California, as instituted by Governor Schwarzenegger on June 19, 2005. President George W. Bush also recognizes the memorial of the enforcement of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation with his Presidential Message on Juneteenth.

Happy Juneteenth—go out and celebrate!


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