On Slavery and Juneteenth

by | Jun 19, 2023 | Education | 0 comments

Today, we celebrated June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger, commanding officer of the District of Texas, arrived in Galveston, Texas and announced General Order No. 3, proclaiming freedom for the 250,000 enslaved people in Texas. This forced slavers in Texas to comply with the Emancipation Proclamation and meant that all slaves in the confederacy were free.

And while families all over the country rightly celebrate Juneteenth, there is also an insidious effort afoot to prevent our children from understanding the realities and horrors of the slave trade, the racist and untrue discourse used to excuse it and the systems and structures inherited from that trade that still exist.

The truth is that for over 400 years, millions of African men, women and children were abducted, tortured and transported to the Americas. The captured Africans, were taken to coastal forts established by European powers and packed onto slave ships for the treacherous Middle Passage across the Atlantic Ocean. Conditions aboard those ships were horrendous and tens of thousands died along the way. Upon arrival in the Americas, children were separated from their parents. People who spoke the same language, came from the same region or shared cultural or ethnic ties were also separated. Then the Africans were sold at slave auctions. Slaves were property – chattel subjected to backbreaking work, brutal treatment, and inhumane living conditions everywhere.

The truth is that slavery fueled the economic growth and dominance of Great Britain, Portugal, Spain, Denmark, The Netherlands and the other the European powers which led the trade as well as the US.

The truth is that we owe it to ourselves and our children to not only understand the severity and horrors of slavery but to appreciate what can happen when we dehumanize our each other for profit.

The truth is that when we are courageous enough to grapple with the hard facts about slavery, we will begin to recognize, question and dismantle the systems and structures inherited from the slave trade that are still pervasive today.

The truth is that the celebration on Juneteenth is even more meaningful when we fully appreciate what slaves endured, what they fought back against and how they ultimately survived to see their freedom proclaimed.

There are many great resources for families to learn more about slavery, its lessons and legacies and why true freedom is the most precious human right. Here are a few:

The History and Meaning of Juneteenth on the Daily Podcast

The UNESCO Routes of Enslaved Peoples Project

Equal Justice Initiative – Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice

Kaya Henderson and Reconstruction on theParenting for the Future Podcast

-Common Sense Media booklist for kids of all ages

Learning for Justice: Teaching Juneteenth

Wishing you and your loved ones a rich and happy Juneteenth celebration!