Juneteenth: Making History

Education Stakeholders, you are comprised of Leaders, Community Members, Staff, Students, and Families . . . all humans, if you will. We are privy to a moment in history. Our obligation is to understand & pass it on.

Dr. Ri’Cha ri Sancho

On June 17, 2021, President Biden signed a bill that declared Juneteenth a federal holiday (The White House). There are many facets of this moment in history that marks its significance. Please, read with me as I briefly share a few details with you as you begin to enlighten others.  

  1. Juneteenth is the 1st Federal Holiday declared since “Martin Luther King, Jr. Day” in 1983.
  2. Juneteenth is celebrated because it represents the day the LAST “slaves” in the United States became aware that they were free in 1865, although the Emancipation Proclamation was signed to free enslaved Africans/African Americans in 1863.
    When the news arrived, they were living in Texas. Imagine the trek from the east (or south) to Texas on horseback. That trek is at least 1,000 miles and can be greater than 1,500 miles.
  3. Texas native, Opal Lee, a 94 year old African American woman dedicated to making Juneteenth a federal holiday, shared her feelings of elation for the federal marking of this day AND the idea that there is more work to be accomplished for people of color.
  4. Juneteenth reminds us to contemplate the cost of freedom many enslaved Africans/African Americans endured to help Current Day African Americans experience a better life. Juneteenth reminds me to remember the sacrifices of my ancestors.
  5. Juneteenth represents a step forward in the overdue recognition, by the U.S. government, that African slavery was a vile depiction of the American value system.
  6. Juneteenth provides an opportunity for human beings to uphold a denouncement of enslavement – for those with and without African ancestry – from this point forward.
  7. Juneteenth is a Look at the Face of the Future, in earnest contemplation of the Errors of our Past.   

When I asked the reason one southeastern middle school failed to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Day, I was informed that the African American History teacher informed the school principal (who identified as a “White male”) that African Americans should be “celebrated everyday” and that it was not necessary to hold a celebration in honor of the contributions of Dr. King and his constituents. Therefore, students of color were deprived of the right to understand what it meant to stand against injustice in the 1970’s and how this was done peacefully. They were remiss of the battles that were fought for them to be able to enjoy new commonplace freedoms, such as walking through the front door of any public building, drinking from public water fountains, sitting in any seat to have dinner with a culturally diverse crowd of friends, studying in colleges and universities, and learning from the same books as their peers, who identify as White or Caucasian.  This opportunity to empower African American students and to instill a sense of humility and pride for those who came before them… was lost. I marveled at a school full of education stakeholders who opted to pass on performing “A TEACHABLE MOMENT.”

Essentially, all students missed the opportunity to reflect, ponder, and question the past in reference to the present.

People are saying that there is much more work to do. Yes, there will always be more work to do. . . for everyone . . .  not just some. For today, I will give thanks for being able to exist in a sea of dissimilar and similar individuals and to know that whether upheld or not, there are laws and nationally recognized honorary days that support me (and generations of students) being “Unique,” without retribution.  In this respect, that which was once done in the light to many ancestors… now skirts in the shadows. 


Kindelan, K. (2021, June 18). Meet Opal Lee, the ‘grandmother of the movement’ to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/News/meet-opal-lee-grandmother-movement-make-juneteenth-federal/story?id=78356537

The White House. (2021, June 18). Briefing room: A Proclamation on Juneteenth Day of Observance, 2021. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/06/18/a-proclamation-on-juneteenth-day-of-observance-2021/

Published by k12civilleadership

K-12 Civil Leadership is dedicated to preserving racial and ethnic minority psychological safety by offering research & training to education leaders, education advocates, and organization leaders. Teaching collaboration through education-community partnerships, we can leverage positive social interactions in K-12 students to make a bold impact on generations to come.

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