Today, June 19, is the USA holiday called Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day, Freedom Day or Emancipation Day. Juneteenth commemorates the reading in the state of Texas – on June 19, 1865 – of the proclamation that announced the abolition of slavery. This was several years after the prescribed effective date of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1862.
On that day in June, slaves were told they were free but, according to Wikipedia, were “advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages” and “that they (would) not be supported in idleness. …” Juneteenth is celebrated in many states with parties, parades, readings, etc. Texas now celebrates Juneteenth as a legal state holiday.
Rev. Ronald V. Meyers, chairman of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation is quoted as saying that Juneteenth is “a time of celebration, but also a time of reflection, healing, and hopefully a time for the country to come together and deal with its slave legacy.” Sadly, several states are making efforts to rewrite, fabricate or deny the history of slavery in the U.S..
In his book “Slavery by Another Name,” Douglas A. Blackmon writes about the continuation of enslavement and racism under other names. Human labor trafficking and involuntary servitude because of one’s color have been too much a part of African American life in the U.S.
“(What Did I Do to Be So) Black and Blue” (composed by Fats Waller in 1929 with lyrics by Harry Brooks and Andy Razaf):
…What did I do then to be so black and blue?
I’m white inside but that don’t help my case
’Cause I can’t hide what is in my face
How will it end, ain’t got a friend
My only sin is in my skin
What did I do to be so black and blue?
Sting of the rock group The Police in his song “O My God” laments, “How can I turn the other cheek? It’s black and bruised and torn.” Like the lyrics of “Black and Blue,” ongoing suffering is the theme. Considering the odds that African Americans have faced and still face in the U.S., it is remarkable that millions of African Americans are law-abiding citizens that attain the American dream by acquiring property, a good education, employment and wealth. The late African American author, poet, producer, dancer, singer, and activist Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014) writes about African American resilience in her poem “Still I Rise.” Thank you, Ms. Angelou, for the strength of your poem.
“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise …
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise…
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain’
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.