Thursday, June 18, 2020
Editors' Note: Continuing our symposium on Black Lives Matter, we publish this post for Juneteenth
By Co-Editor Prof. Justine Dunlap, UMass Law School
In the 7-10 days before Juneteenth, it has gotten a good deal of attention. For this increased awareness, we have President Trump’s scheduler to thank. That person initially selected this date for Trump’s first height-of-Covid rally in Tulsa, OK. This choice was particularly problematic because of the Tulsa race massacre that killed many black people in the affluent black neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa in 1921.
Much outcry ensued over this scheduled event and now a lot more white people know a lot more about Juneteenth, the real emancipation day for enslaved African-Americans. It occurred on June 19th, 1865, when news of Lincoln’s January 1863 Emancipation Proclamation reached and was read to enslaved people in Galveston, Texas. Many of us, regardless of race, had been taught that Lincoln’s document did the trick, with an occasional hint that there were some problems with that interpretation of history. Imagine being free but not being informed of that freedom for 2 & ½ years.
Once celebrated officially primarily in Texas, Juneteenth is an official state holiday in 46 states and is celebrated by parades and other festivities befitting a joyous day of independence. Juneteenth.com contains much information about this critical yet under-celebrated day. Spend some time today exploring it. It also contains the poem below by Kristina Kay Robinson.
From Africa’s heart, we rose
Already a people, our faces ebon, our bodies lean,
Skills of art, life, beauty and family
Crushed by forces we knew nothing of, we rose
Survive we must, we did,
We rose to be you, we rose to be me,
Above everything expected, we rose
To become the knowledge we never knew,
Dream, we did
Act we must