For years, Juneteenth was a date ignored by most of us. Even in 2022, many don’t understand why the day is so important to our country’s past and future.
The significance of June 19 — a holiday recognizing the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans — was largely kept out of school textbooks and public discourse until recent years.
The racial justice reckoning of 2020 helped to highlight Juneteenth and its significance. In 2021, Juneteenth became an official federal holiday. Many employers have followed suit in establishing the date as a holiday for workers.
We often hear on Memorial Day that the holiday is more than just a day off from work. The same holds true for Juneteenth. It symbolizes one of the most important dates in our country’s history — the day in 1865 when Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. June 19 is a time to celebrate the end of slavery, but also an opportunity to reflect upon the most brutal and horrific period in our country’s existence.
It’s not a topic many of us want to consider, but we should never forget slavery and all of its evils. It’s one way we can keep such wickedness from happening again. Of course that’s one reason why Juneteenth wasn’t observed en masse — it’s a painful and shameful reminder of a terrible chapter in our story.
But it’s also a date that proves change can happen.
In Southern Indiana, New Albany Parks Recreation Director Kathy Wilkerson organized Juneteenth events for several years. Some included trips for children where they were educated about the significance of Juneteenth. Wilkerson and New Albany were pretty much on their own locally in providing programing related to Juneteenth, but thankfully that’s changed.
There are several events slated this month in Southern Indiana centered around Juneteenth and Black history.
From 3 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, the Jeffersonville Township Public Library is hosting a Juneteenth celebration. A presentation will include information on former slaves who made a difference after settling in Southern Indiana.
Also on Saturday, tours will be held each hour, on the hour, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Town Clock Church in New Albany. The church served as a link in the Underground Railroad and has undergone significant rehabilitation in recent years.
On Saturday, June 18, the New Albany branch of the Floyd County Library will host a Juneteenth celebration. It will include live music, food and arts and crafts.
These events are free and open to the public.
If you can’t make it or just aren’t much on crowds, spend some time researching Juneteenth. Read about the hardships slaves endured. Consider how humans could ever allow themselves to believe that enslaving another human was right.
While no one alive had anything to do with slavery, we owe it to those who suffered to know their history. We should educate ourselves on how slavery didn’t end with President Abraham Lincoln’s famous proclamation, nor did the effects of slavery cease when the Civil War ended.