Today marks the 155th anniversary of the official end of government-sanctioned Black slavery in the United State of America, two-and-a-half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. On June 19th, 1865, Union troops landed in Texas to enforce the President’s order.
Since 1866 (it was known as Freedom Day that first year), this day honors the history of Black America, all the struggle and perseverance that has shaped that history, and a victory for all of humanity. Ending institutionalized slavery, just as we seek to end to systemic oppression and violence, is a victory for us all.
Usually, public celebrations are scheduled on this day. Due to COVID-19, however, most of these events have been canceled while others have moved online. The cancelations are unfortunate given recent social upheaval, but we can still observe the day together and show our support for communities within our society that especially need it right now.
Slavery remains a problem all over the world with an estimated 400,000 human slaves residing in the U.S. alone. Within this institution, minority groups – including indigenous people and people of color in most Western countries – are still disproportionately victimized. When we celebrate Juneteenth, we remember how we collectively dismantled a massive, evil institution. We remember that we did it once, and we can do it again. And again. As many times and for as long as it takes.