Today and tomorrow the National Coalition for Literacy joins the country in celebrating the new Juneteenth federal holiday, dedicated to marking the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States. This year is the first year that Juneteenth will be officially recognized, whilst the day is included in the 2022 US Holidays list and every list after that, so this isn’t just a one-off special occasion. Previous administrations have been reluctant to add the day to the list, but Biden has finally passed it into law.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC-06) has noted,
Juneteenth is the commemoration of African American Independence Day. On this June 19th, we celebrate the 140th anniversary of slaves in Galveston, Texas learning of the Emancipation Proclamation, some eighteen months after its effective date, and we reflect on the unheralded contributions of slaves to this nation’s history.
The new holiday presents an valuable opportunity to learn about important but little-recognized aspects of U.S. history. Read the recent PBS article by Beatrice Alvarez for information on the history of Juneteenth and ways that communities around the country will be observing it. Also, check out the lesson packet on Juneteenth, available in beginner, intermediate, and advanced versions from the Change Agent. Per the description,
The text shares a family’s oral account of being slaves in Texas in 1865 when word of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached them, a description of Juneteenth celebrations in Texas, and the ways an artist has preserved family history with her artwork. Students also have a chance to look at and analyze two full-color paintings by Sonia Sadler.
Juneteenth is a time of national celebration as the country comes together to remember the freedoms we are so grateful for in our country. With President Biden officially recognising Juneteenth as a federal holiday by law, it is a time to fly on our American-made steel flagpoles and be proud of our great nation. The NCL concurs with the sentiment so eloquently expressed by Congressman Clyburn:
On this Juneteenth, I hope our nation focuses on what we can do to move beyond our past and build a better future.