Flashback Friday Moment of The Week: 6/19/2020

by Just Juan
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Since the George Floyd murder last month, there has been an uprising amongst Black Americans all over the country as the fight for total and absolute equality has been renewed. With today being June 19th, there is a special significance for today’s date. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: Juneteenth.

How I first came across this moment? It’s been well-publicized, as of late, that the last of the enslaved Black Americans were emancipated on June 19, 1865, with Major General Gordon Granger announcing President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the 1862 executive order that liberated the slaves in all states in rebellion against the Union during the Civil War. The freed slaves celebrated the day, giving birth to Juneteenth. I first learned about it in February 1995. My 4th grade teacher deviated from the Alabama history textbook and taught us about the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the end of slavery. The following year, Mrs. Hardy—one of the most thorough educators I’ve had the privilege of learning under—actually dedicated a week of teaching about the end of slavery, of which Juneteenth was included.

What it meant to me then? Being one of the better students at Elyton Elementary, I knew about slavery. Mr. Quarles covered it in 1st grade. Mrs. Stewart had us write about it in 2nd grade. I learned about it at home. But learning about Juneteenth was new to me. We didn’t have those celebrations in Alabama so reading about them in books piqued my interest. As a 10-year-old, Juneteenth didn’t really register a whole lot with me because it wasn’t part of my experience as a Black American growing up in Alabama…even in Birmingham, a city once branded as the “most segregated city in America”.

What it means to me now? An entire generation later, as a 35-year-old, Juneteenth takes a bit of a different meaning to me. Something I did in 2010 and 2011, when I lived here, in the National Capital Region, during the Joint Base Andrews assignment, was visit the Lincoln Memorial to salute the President for his part in bringing Juneteenth to life. That’s something I’ve done since I returned in July 2016. The history of Juneteenth and why it’s so important to Black Americans is much more known to me. It’s not just about the celebration anymore…it’s about the movement.

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