Juneteenth History and Importance with Mrs. Keenan and the Tosa East BSU

J. Lee

Tosa East on Juneteenth and its history: What do people need to know?

The upcoming 19th of June is a very important date for American history, and to many Americans, is much more than just a federal holiday on the calendar.

“Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery, legally, in the US,” said Mrs. Tanya Keenan, an academic literacy teacher at Tosa East. “Juneteenth is important in recognizing the evil and oppressive institution of slavery.”

Juneteenth is coming up soon. It is the date when remaining enslaved Black people in the US were emancipated by federal troops arriving in Galveston, Texas. This federal holiday, in short, honors the end of slavery in the United States. This is the surface level explanation of the holiday, but the history runs much deeper.

History of Juneteenth: Its origin and why it was first celebrated

The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1st, 1863. This proclamation granted freedom to those enslaved. However, this was only one of the many steps in ending slavery, because most enslaved people were not yet freed.

Despite the proclamation and the long fight for emancipation,Texas remained essentially unaffected when it came to the new slavery laws. Because there were fewer Union troops in Texas, slavery continued in the state. On June 19th, 1865, over two years after Lincoln’s proclamation, Union General Granger arrived in Galveston when the Civil War was about to come to an end, bringing with him the announcement of General Order no. 3. Around 250,000 enslaved people in Texas were granted their freedom.

The freeing of enslaved people in Texas was a very significant moment for Black people and Black history. Upon the emancipation, celebrations took place, becoming what we now call Juneteenth. The Juneteenth holiday originated in Texas, but as Black people migrated across the country, Juneteenth traditions spread throughout the United States.

Juneteenth’s important impact and why it should still be celebrated today

“[Juneteenth should still be celebrated] to reiterate the role that slavery has played in our past and present American society,” Keenan said when asked why the holiday is still important.

It’s commonly accepted that history will repeat itself if we do not learn it. It’s very important to know why holidays are celebrated so we understand their origins and what their significance is. Learning more about Juneteenth and about the reasons why it’s celebrated through the perspectives of Black Americans is key, and the spread of Black culture is heavily and positively impactful in the US.

Like Keenan said, it is crucial that we understand the role that slavery has played in our past and present because even if it is very heavy, it is necessary. Slavery is a perpetual discussion that was relevant in the past, is relevant today, and will be relevant in the future.

What should we keep in mind up until and on the day of Juneteenth? What should we know?

Members of Tosa East’s Black Student Union (BSU) stated that the acknowledgment of Juneteenth, whether you’re able or not fully able to understand it or its meaning, is still essential.

“[Juneteenth] may not be an important holiday to you but there are thousands of people who find it important and celebrate it,” said an anonymous Tosa East student. “It’s meant to celebrate an important part of history.”

“[People should keep in mind] that the legacy of slavery and racial oppression are realities in our current American society and must by acknowledged and addressed,” Keenan mentioned. “[People should know] that people of African descent have survived racial oppression and violence for generations and these accomplishments should be celebrated.”

There are things that nonblack people can do when it comes to holidays like Juneteenth, such as learning the history and keeping an open mind. Being sensitive to the holiday and remembering the racial oppression in our societies are significant. Juneteenth is a celebration for those who are African-American and an acknowledgement of the suffering they have endured and overcome.

Spreading the history of Juneteenth and Black history outside of the holiday

“[People should] educate themselves and listen to Black voices when/if they spread information,” said an anonymous student at Tosa East.

Spreading African-American history and Juneteenth history is something that allies can do in supporting Black Americans across the country. When it comes to allyship, nonblack people can educate themselves through Black voices and listening to their stories. Educating others about Black history goes beyond ourselves and requires stepping outside of our own perspectives, even if it can be new at first. The most important voices to listen to when it comes to Juneteenth are Black voices.

“Continue to advocate for the teaching and learning of the history and present reality of people of African descent,” Keenan said.

Juneteenth is a holiday that cannot go ignored and it must be recognized even by those who aren’t participating in the celebration. It is essential that nonblack people keep this information and keep the voices of Black Americans in mind when June 19th comes around. Sensitivity, allyship, and education are great steps in understanding Juneteenth, the history behind it, and most importantly, why it is so influential.