Tips for Thought

Juneteenth: Freedom from Slavery in the US

Juneteenth, observed on June 19th, holds a significant place in American history as the oldest-known commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States. This historic day, also known as “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day,” symbolizes the triumph of hope, resilience, and the enduring spirit of freedom. It is a powerful source of inspiration, reminding us of the progress made and the challenges ahead.

Powerful Words of Iconic Figures

These are the people who embody the essence of this historic day through their voices, actions, and spirits. These quotes are from a compilation published by Good Housekeeping. The original piece provides a more extensive collection.

  • John Lewis, a prominent civil rights leader, and former U.S. Representative, beautifully encapsulates this sentiment when he says, “You must never, ever give out. We must keep the faith because we are one people. We are brothers and sisters. We all live in the same house: The American house.”
  • Maya Angelou, a voice of wisdom and resilience, poignantly emphasizes the importance of story-telling in keeping history alive, stating: “Hold those things that tell your history and protect them. During slavery, who was able to read or write or keep anything? The ability to have somebody to tell your story to is so important. It says: ‘I was here. I may be sold tomorrow. But you know I was here.’”
  • Former First Lady Michelle Obama echoes the importance of recognizing the Black community’s untidy, turbulent journey and resilience. She declares, “Even though the story has never been tidy, and Black folks have had to march and fight for every inch of our freedom, our story is nonetheless one of progress.”
  • Vice President Kamala Harris underscores Juneteenth’s rich history, stating, “Throughout history, Juneteenth has been known by many names: Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, Liberation Day, Emancipation Day and, today, a national holiday.”
  • In line with Harris’s observation, the late actor Chadwick Boseman emphasizes the importance of active participation in supporting Black voices and businesses, stating, “Understanding history is one of many ways to break the cycle. Lift up/amplify Black voices. Support Black-owned businesses. Reach back. Mentor.”
  • Musician Pharrell Williams brings forth a compelling argument about inclusivity, asking, “The day we were free—everyone was free. Why not make it a paid holiday? We deserve that…We want a day that is inclusive to everyone.”
  • Serena Williams and Kwame Nkrumah echo the power of resilience and the essence of freedom in their stirring words. Williams proudly declares, “There’s no other race, to me, that has such a tough history for hundreds and hundreds of years, and only the strong survive, so we were the strongest and the most mentally tough, and I’m really proud to wear this color every single day of my life.” Nkrumah poignantly states, “Freedom is not something that one people can bestow on another as a gift. They claim it as their own and none can keep it from them.”
  • Viola Davis pays homage to the survivors of slavery, promising, “If there is just about anything to rejoice it can be my ancestors, African People who survived the atrocity and stain of slavery… I honor them these days with a guarantee that I will keep on to combat for your unexplored desires and hopes.”
  • Malcolm X reflects on the interconnectedness of freedom and peace, stating, “You can’t separate peace from freedom, because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.”
  • Civil rights activist Rosa Parks expresses her longing for freedom, not just for herself, but for all people, saying, “I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free… so other people would be also free.”
  • President Barack Obama’s call for proactive change is powerful and impactful. He states, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
  • The immortal words of Martin Luther King Jr. speak of the long and inevitable path toward justice, stating, “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

These powerful Juneteenth quotes paint a picture of resilience, struggle, unity, and the long road to justice.

Juneteenth is a journey to liberation.

Originating in Texas, Juneteenth marks the momentous occasion when Union soldiers, led by General Gordon Granger, arrived in Galveston on June 19, 1865, to announce the end of slavery, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. This day represents the liberation of African Americans who had long endured the chains of bondage, emphasizing the promise of freedom and equality for all.

Juneteenth celebrates freedom.

Juneteenth celebrations are characterized by vibrant gatherings, parades, music, art, and educational events showcasing rich African American culture and history. It is a time of reflection, remembrance, and gratitude for the sacrifices and struggles endured by those who fought for emancipation. Through the commemoration of Juneteenth, we honor the resilience and determination of generations past while embracing the diversity and unity that defines our society today.

Juneteenth is an inspiration for the future.

Juneteenth serves as a powerful inspiration for progress and justice. It reminds us that the journey towards equality is ongoing, motivating us to confront and dismantle systemic racism and discrimination that persist to this day. By educating ourselves about the history and significance of Juneteenth, we are equipped to contribute meaningfully to the pursuit of a more inclusive and equitable future.

Juneteenth is a call to action.

As we commemorate Juneteenth, it is essential to transform inspiration into action. We can actively engage in community initiatives, support organizations working toward racial justice, and advocate for policies that promote equality and fairness. By embracing the principles of Juneteenth throughout the year, we can foster a society that upholds the values of freedom, dignity, and respect for all individuals.

Learn More About It

These are notable books about Juneteenth that can be purchased.

  • Juneteenth: A Novel” by Ralph Ellison: This posthumously published novel by the renowned author of “Invisible Man” explores themes of race, identity, and freedom through the lens of a black preacher’s life and experiences.
  • Juneteenth: Freedom Day” by Muriel Miller Branch: This children’s book provides a concise and accessible introduction to the history and significance of Juneteenth, helping young readers understand its importance in the context of American history.
  • On Juneteenth” by Annette Gordon-Reed: In this memoir, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and legal scholar Annette Gordon-Reed reflects on her own experiences growing up in Texas and explores the complexities and significance of Juneteenth.