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Juneteenth: a teachable moment of forgotten history

While most Americans prepare to celebrate the country’s freedom on July 4, many Black people in the United States recognize June 19 as their independence day.

What’s widely known as Juneteenth, but also referred to as Jubilee Day or Black Independence Day, is the significant date in Black history when the last enslaved African Americans found out about their freedom. The news was delivered to Black people in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which lawfully marked the end of slavery for those of the Southern Confederate states.

With Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black woman to hold the second-highest office in the executive branch, by his side, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law last year, on June 17, 2021. But the African American community had been celebrating long before Juneteenth was made a federal holiday.

Those celebrations normally include music, food, and traditions such as the singing of the national Black anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” But some stars, like Naomi Raine of the Grammy-winning gospel group Maverick City Music, plan to commemorate the holiday differently this year. Raine will open up honest conversations with her children.

“I think everybody’s kind of evolving how they’re celebrating this holiday because some of it is just coming to light for many of us,” Raine told ABC Audio. “Now, it’s more about educating my children and letting them know the roots of our nation and talking about how freedom is for everybody.”

The country’s delayed acknowledgement of what has long been an erased part of American history encourages Black people to research and educate themselves on unknown facts about their ancestry.

The 157th anniversary of Juneteenth is this Sunday, June 19.

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