Tomorrow, June 19, is the USA holiday called Juneteenth, which is now celebrated as a legal state holiday in Texas.  “Juneteenth commemorates the reading of the proclamation that announced the abolition of slavery in the state of Texas on June 19, 1865.”

The reading of the Juneteenth proclamation took place several years “after the prescribed effective date of the US Emancipation Proclamation of 1862.”

Since the Juneteenth proclamation strongly “advised (slaves) to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages…”, in essence it did not emancipate (free from control over) the slaves.  The U.S. Emancipation proclamation of 1862 did not free all slaves. It only freed (on paper, at least) the slaves in the territories rebelling against the Union.

Slavery has been practiced since the existence of ancient cultures and even justified in some religions, and the eradication of formal and informal slavery has been pursued for centuries.  Freedom and justice continue to be sought in all facets of societies: politics, religion, employment, education, medical care, housing, the arts, etc.  The late African American pianist and singer Nina Simone (born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, Feb. 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003) sang about discrimination in the USA and the desire for freedom.

Some lyrics from one of those songs are:

“I wish I knew how it would feel to be free. I wish I could break all the chains holding me. … I wish I could … remove all the bars that keep us apart. I wish you could know what it means to me, then you’d see and agree that every man should be free. … I wish I could give all I’m longing to give. I wish I could live like I’m longing to live. I wish I could do all the things that I can do. Though I’m way overdue, I’d be starting anew.”

It is 2015 and there are still people in the USA (and the rest of the world) who are not free. Civil rights laws in the USA grant the right to freedom and justice to all citizens on paper, but freedom and justice are only accomplished when these laws are practiced fairly and without prejudice.

Reading about freedom and celebrating the notion of freedom are not endpoints in themselves but should serve to foster the active pursuit of freedom for all.  As you and I know, for certain groups of people in the USA, the question remains: “When will they know how it feels to be free?” 

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

 – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...