Juneteenth: Educate yourself on this day of remembrance, reflection, celebration

Fiona Legesse/The Cougar

Fiona Legesse/The Cougar

I vaguely remember the five minutes my junior high Texas history teacher used to explain to us the meaning of Juneteenth. I remember it, because I thought it had a cool name, not because of its historical significance.

The importance of the Fourth of July and the year when Christopher Columbus touched American land were reinforced every school year, but only once did I hear about Juneteenth and we barely spoke about its importance.  

The Texas Education Agency does not have Juneteenth as part of their “Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Social Studies” list. The Emancipation Proclamation is part of the curriculum every year, but there is no mention of Juneteenth. 

It is up to us to educate ourselves on this day of celebration. 

June 19th, or Juneteenth, is the day when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger led Union soldiers into Galveston to liberate Texan slaves in 1865. 

Freed Black people were finally able to reunite with family members and loved ones; for the first time, they were free people in the U.S. Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom and the reunion of torn families. 

Although the Emancipation Proclamation had gone into effect on January 1, 1863, the news of freedom took two years to reach Texas. This delay is a good metaphor for the world today.

Here we are, 155 years after the first Juneteenth, and injustice and racism still seem to be threads that run through the cloth of American culture. 

Juneteenth is not only part of Black history, it is part of American history, and it should be recognized and remembered as such. Juneteenth is a day where we stepped out of an incredibly dark period in American history and began to right our wrongs.

There was a lot of good done that day, but if we are being realistic, there are still big strides to make in the fight for equality. Even if the law says it exists, people have found and created loopholes to divide the population and oppress minorities.

Recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday, like the Independence Day, would be an acknowledgement of the injustice Black people have endured and continue to experience in our nation. 

It would force us to speak about it. We would not be able to brush it off or skim over it during history class. 

Recognizing Juneteenth as a U.S. holiday is a very small step, but it holds a lot of meaning and intention.

So, let’s be intentional and own up to our past so we can change our future.

Gina Medina is a journalism senior who can be reached at [email protected] 

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