FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday formally recognizes the end of slavery in the United States and African American freedom.
June 19, 1865, is the day the last group of black people in Texas learned they were free from slavery; more than two and half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.
Dr. Caree Banton is the Program Director of African and African American Studies at the University of Arkansas. She says although black people have celebrated Juneteenth for years this part of American history is often left out of textbooks.
“Recognition by us, for us, has always been something that is treasured…. and considered important that we recognize that our freedom is important and valued first, even if it is not recognized by the larger society,” said Dr. Banton.
This is why she encourages people to educate themselves about the complex history of Juneteenth and why it means so much to black people.
“Black people hearing about their freedom over two years later is because people tried to keep them as chattel. Find out how that has been preserved in our American society still and find ways to destroy those kinds of barriers,” said Dr. Banton.
She urges folks to look into the issues surrounding race.
“If you’re meaningful, it means genuine engagement with the societal issues, the structural issues that have strained or constrained Africans American experiences of freedom and their current positionality in American society,” said Dr. Banton.
She adds that efforts to understand the plight of black people, and to now recognize Juneteenth as a federal holiday are all steps in the right direction.
Dr. Banton tells us to really observe Juneteenth means to really engage with the black community.
She gives credit to cities like Fayetteville for taking steps to recognize Juneteenth as a city holiday. She adds that it’s also about making the structural changes that would really give black people the opportunities to thrive.
“It would be great if all of these people, organizations and government bodies who are now coming to awareness, you know…. lending support, creating spaces including black voices… and providing resources for the community,” said Dr. Banton.
This is the first new federal holiday established since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created back in 1983.
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