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  • Susan J. Leviton

What is Juneteenth and What Can It Teach Us?

The day honors the freeing of the last African American slaves in our country on June 19, 1865, in Texas. History has much to teach us, but choosing to commemorate it is a lesson in itself.

Flag in yellow, red, black, and green stating "freedom day"

Our nation's history can be studied from many aspects--political, social, economical, and so on,* and I don't want to diminish anything there. I do want to add, however, one more view--the psychological side. When we choose to honor a day, we are telling a person, or group of people, that they matter. No, it certainly doesn't right all the wrongs, or erase the pain, but feeling heard and seen, feeling like people care, can put us on a better path. It tells people that they matter. And isn't that what we all want to feel? That our lives have meaning? That we have value?

Juneteenth is significant not just because it happened, but because we choose to acknowledge that it happened.

*For more on Juneteenth from those perspectives, check out:

The National Museum of African American History and Culture: "The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth"

"What is Juneteenth?" by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Resources from the Library of Congress:

In addition to the multitude of books, articles, movies, blogs, etc. on the subject of African American slavery.

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