Editor’s Corner: Juneteenth: a national holiday

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Juneteenth (short for “June Nineteenth”) marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed. The troops’ arrival came a full two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Juneteenth honors the end to slavery in the United States and is considered the longest-running African American holiday. On June 17, 2021, it officially became a federal holiday.

Today, America celebrates this very important moment in history - the day all men were truly set free in America. Juneteenth is, in a sense, Independence Day.

Great Civil Rights leaders explain it better than I ever could.

• Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States and a Civil Rights attorney, said, “"Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory, or an acceptance of the way things are. Instead, it's a celebration of progress. It's an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, things do get better. America can change. "

•Maya Angelou, memoirist, poet, and Civil Rights activist, said, “Hold those things that tell your history and protect them. During slavery, who was able to read or write or keep anything? The ability to have somebody to tell your story to is so important. It says: ‘I was here. I may be sold tomorrow. But you know I was here.'"

•Lonnie Bunch, 14th Secretary of the Smithsonian, educator, and historian, said, “It's an opportunity to both look back but to look ahead to make sure that notion of freedom and the fragility of it is always protected and celebrated."

•Coretta Scott King, Civil Rights activist and author, said, “Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation."

•Angela Davis, political activist, professor, and author, said, “Today on Juneteenth, the day we celebrate the end of slavery, the day we memorialize those who offered us hope for the future and the day when we renew our commitment to the struggle for freedom."

May we all take a moment on this important day to think about our history, the struggle, the fight, the victory. Only by looking back can we continue to move forward.

Sandra Brand is the editor of the NEA Town Courier and The Osceola Times. She may be reached by phone at 870-563-2615 or by email at brand@osceolatimes.com.