Thursday, June 18, 2020

Stay In! And Celebrate Juneteenth

by Peggy Robin 

Tomorrow, June 19th, is Juneteenth, and unless you’ve been hidden away in a cave for the last month, you’ve learned that this date is a celebration of the end of slavery in the US -- a holiday or an official observance in 47 of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia.

When President Trump announced that he would be holding a political rally for his campaign in Tulsa on that historic date, there came such an outcry of protest from all across the political spectrum -- even from Republicans -- that in a rare reversal, Trump postponed the event for a day, pushing it forward to the 20th... but still set to take place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the site of the largest and most horrific massacre of African Americans by a white mob ever to take place on American soil.

You may not have been taught about Juneteenth in your American history class. Your American history textbook may have informed you that January 1, 1863 was when the Emancipation Proclamation was issued – and your teacher might even have explained that this meant that the slaves were free. It didn’t. The Emancipation Proclamation applied only to enslaved persons in the South in areas under Union control – and Union troops at that point in the war were not doing so well. Even after the Civil War ended with General Lee’s surrender at Appomatox courthouse on April 9, 1865, slavery persisted in the US. Juneteenth marks the date - June 19, 1865 - of the arrival of Union troops to the (then) geographically isolated, remote state of Texas, and these Union forces were finally able to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation that Lincoln had declared more than two years before. About 250,000 enslaved persons in Texas became free -- two months and ten days AFTER the end of the Civil War.   

So Juneteenth reminds us that it’s not what’s in a proclamation or a law that brings about change; it matters whether the laws are enforced – equally and fairly – that makes the difference between slavery and freedom, justice and injustice. It’s a question of who’s there to do the enforcing, too. That’s something we’re still working on till this day….and something to demand on this Juneteenth of 2020.  

To learn more about Juneteenth and take part in DC Public Library’s virtual Juneteenth celebration, visit:   

To learn more about local marches, protests, observances, and educational sessions taking place in and around DC this weekend, go to: and also:

For everybody's well-being, please remember to wear your mask and observe social distancing!

Have a safe and meaningful Juneteenth!

The Stay In! column (formerly known as the "Get Out!" events column) is published on All Life Is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv on Thursdays.

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