"This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn."-Frederick Douglass, “What to the Slave in the Fourth of July?” (July 5, 1852)
Frederick Douglass was called upon to speak on Independence Day, which honors the Declaration of Independence. However, he poses the appropriate question: “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?” The nation’s independence from English rule did not release enslaved Africans from their chains, so why should Black people celebrate July 4th? Even as the nation earned its independence, the institution of slavery was preserved.
On June 19, 1865, approximately thirteen years after Douglass gave his speech, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas and informed enslaved Africans that they were free. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was issued two and a half years prior (January 1, 1863), the executive order did not reach all enslaved Africans. Therefore, we celebrate Juneteenth (June 19th) as a holiday that acknowledges the emancipation of Black people in the U.S. On this day, we also celebrate our triumphs and collective power, while also acknowledging our struggles and fight for civil and human rights.
So as we recognize Juneteenth, take this time to learn more about the Black experience. Read the works of numerous Black scholars as they talk about the issues of race and racism. Become well rounded on the issues that plague Black America. Revisit what you’ve learned about historical topics/events and seek to gain more information from multiple perspectives. Learn more about Black trailblazers and heroes. Also, listen to music from Black artists. Recognize great Black musicians. Watch films from Black producers and directors. Support Black businesses. I can go on and on; this is just a start.