June 19, 2020 - 155th Anniversary of Juneteenth

In 1863, Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the United States. For many Americans, this simple statement has been taught to us in grade school for decades. As a young Black girl growing up in Memphis, I remember my teachers teaching this, too. What I was not taught, however, was the story of American slavery and its slow and painful end, even after Lincoln’s Proclamation. At its best, this limited narrative reduces the struggle for Black liberation in America to a singular moment. And at its worst, it perpetuates an incomplete truth that robs every American of understanding what actually happened after slavery was reformed

Over time, this growing awareness of Juneteenth has led to an exponential growth of events in cities across the nation. These celebrations have included rodeos featuring black cowboys, parades with gorgeous floats, readings of the Proclamation, songs like “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and much more.

Today, I hope folks across the nation commemorate Juneteenth by remembering and sharing the stories of those who lived in slavery before us and those who died for our freedom. I hope they celebrate it by creating space for expressions of Black joy and triumph, as well as teaching that June 19, 1865 was just the beginning. I hope they celebrate it by watching today’s Doodle, which aims to reflect how freedom in America is a journey. Even with executive orders, amendments, civil rights bills, and advancements in technology, the struggle to be treated fair and equal continues. And yet, despite all this, Black Americans still remain hopeful. I hope that people can relate to the basic human desire for liberty, equality, and access to opportunities to create a better life for our families and generations that follow.

Juneteenth is an American story about persistence, freedom, and joy no matter the obstacle. May this year’s celebration provide an opportunity to honor the progress that’s been made and reflect on the important changes that still remain ahead. “...Now let us march on ‘til victory is won.”