Juneteetnth - A Step Toward Freedom and African-American Identity

Photo: Edward Kimmel

A display acknowleding the contributions of African Americans for a Juneteenth celebration in Freedom Park, St. Mary's County, Maryland.  Photo:  Elvert Barnes

June 19, I865 became a day of celebration for those who once were held as slaves. President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation to go into effect on January 1, 1863. Nevertheless slaves were not set free in the Confederacy until the Union al:my arrived in the Confederacy state. June 18, 1865 the Union army arrived in Galveston, Texas; the very next day their General announced that the slaves in Texas were freed by order of the President of the United States. From that day forward June 19th, shortened to Juneteenth by celebrants became an annual celebration of freedom spreading throughout Texas and America. It is the oldest lÿnown celebration honoring the ending of slavery in the U.S today. Not only that but it was the last place in the South that was altered by freedom, and therefore the most memorable. For those who celebrate Juneteenth it is more than just a celebration commemorating African American freedom, it's a way deeper concept then that. In 2007 A1 Edwards hit the mark told Yahoo, "This is similar to what God instructed Joshua to do as he led the Israelites into the Promised Land, a national celebration of Juneteenth, serves a similar pin, pose. Every year we must remind successive generations that this event triggered a series of events that one by one defines the challenges and responsibilities of successive generations. That's why we need to celebrate this holiday" (Gates, 2013). Many people who celebrate Juneteenth can agree with this statement and offer other reasons why they celebrate. Such as, it's a time where people can come together o1' individually to reflect on their lives, it is a time when self-improvement and planning for the future is encouraged. When people of all races and cultures can join hands and aclcnowledge a point in our history that shaped our world and continues to be an influence in our society oday. Juneteenth stresses the importance of education and achievement things we take for granted every day, which leads us to our next topic.

Plaque in Freedom Park located in Lexington Park, MD.  Photo:  Elvert Barnes

How can you make a difference or understand who you are if you have no idea what goes on around you, let alone what happened in the past? Many of us walk around not knowing the weight of chains that once enslaved our ancestors or the challenges they had to go through just to lcnow that their children and their children's children would be safe. Not knowing the things we take for granted like happiness, even freedom may be the one thing someone else desperately needs. Every day someone around the world is sold offto human trafficking or beaten just because the tormentor can. In the novel Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison emphasizes the importance of sharing one's experiences, knowing history of the past so that it can never repeat itself. That's why we should reflect the importance of continuing to cultivate kmowledge of our history and develop an intimate appreciation for our freedom not only on Juneteenth but every day.   

REFERENCES:

Gates, H. (2013, June 19). What Is Juneteenth?. The Root. Retrieved May 12, 2014, from http://www.thero ot. com/artMes/history/2013/06/what is juneteenth.html Johnson, L. (2004, May 1). History in Ralph Ellison's Juneteenth. "" by Johnson, Loretta. Retrieved May 12, 2014, from http://www.questia.com/library/journal/1Gl-119186260/history- in-ralph-ellison-s-juneteenth Robinson, C. (1997, January 1). Juneteenth World Wide Celebration. Juneteenth World Wide Celebration. Retrieved May 12, 2014, from http://www.juneteenth.com Helfrich, C. (n.d.). Juneteenth Celebrates the liberation of black American slaves in Texas on June 19, 1865. Infoplease. Retrieved May 12, 2014, from http://www.infoplease.com/spot/juneteenthl.htm 

About the Author

Zamika Peterson is a junior high school student from Lansing, Michigan.  This essay was the top winner in a city-wide contest that was designed to share the history of Juneteenth.  Zamika will travel to Washington, DC this summer to work as an intern with World Footprints Media.  She hopes  to attend business school when she graduates from high school next year and plans to help pay for college with some modeling and acting jobs.  Zamika loves to travel, read and she loves animals.

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