Juneteenth legislation is a great start, but by now means is it the end

The Senate unanimously passed a bill declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday. When the House passes it and Joe Biden signs it, the legislation will become law, and the celebration of American independence will be complete.

Until now, the whole Independence Day thing was a sham, a scandal, a lie that told us everyone was free in 1776. Alas, we were not.

In the words of Frederick Douglass, “What to the slave is the Fourth of July? … You may rejoice,” he said. “I must mourn.”

And Douglass was right. America’s founders spoke of freedom and at the same time held Africans in bondage. Their documents spoke of equality, but their success was based on oppression. America defined Black people as sixty percent human, then proceeded to treat us like animals.

So, July Fourth was never our holiday, but Juneteenth is a reflection of our struggle.

It commemorates what happened on June 19, 1865, when General Gordon Granger announced the end of slavery in Galveston, Texas. Slaveholders there had never told enslaved people about the Emancipation Proclamation, which Lincoln signed two years before. Instead, they allowed our people to keep working, extending the brutality of slavery until the last possible moment.

That’s how things have gone for Blacks in America, but still, we’ve managed to thrive. So, as we prepare to celebrate Juneteenth as a federal holiday, I celebrate those who survived the middle passage, survived the hot fields, survived the brutal torture, survived the constant pain. Because we, your children, are stronger for your suffering. And though you lived through America’s betrayal, we stand on your faith, stand on your hopes, stand on your dreams, and stand on your sacrifice.

Juneteenth is the day of my people’s independence, but our fight for true freedom goes on.
Photo: National Cathedral lit for Juneteenth By. Victoria Pickering

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