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Our Household Celebrates Juneteenth As an alternative of the 4th of July


Lately, my center schoolers introduced dwelling some homework that was puzzling. I checked out one of many papers and frowned. Why did Eli Whitney, who we grownups had been taught was a Black man who invented the cotton gin, seem like white? My kids knowledgeable me that Eli Whitney was, in reality, white. Seems, they had been proper. My thoughts was blown.

We realized little or no about Black historical past — which is American historical past — rising up. We had been restricted to Eli Whitney (who, once more, wasn’t Black), Dr. King, and Rosa Parks. We realized a dollop right here and there about slavery and Civil Rights. Nevertheless, white-washed, patriarchal historical past was the norm, the place white individuals had been virtually at all times elevated above any individuals of colour as those who had been proper and pure. We stated the Pledge of Allegiance each morning, utterly unaware that “liberty and justice for all” was not likely on the nation’s radar. It sounded good, but it surely didn’t truly exist.


All my Black historical past schooling got here from self-educating. I didn’t start this studying journey till my junior 12 months of faculty after I took an African American Literature class — taught by an older, white professor. I went on to graduate, attend grad college, and turn out to be a instructor myself. With every class, I grew increasingly more agitated. Why hadn’t I realized complete historical past?

Since my husband and I grew to become dad and mom virtually 15 years in the past, rather a lot has modified — for the higher. Although the U.S. has an extended approach to go by way of eradicating the preschool-to-prison pipeline, mortgage mortgage discrimination, voter discrimination, systemic racism, and extra, we’re grateful for the method our multiracial household has seen in recent times. Black Historical past Month is commonplace (although we argue that Black historical past is historical past, and we should always study it year-round, not simply in February). The CROWN Act, “a legislation that prohibits race-based hair discrimination,” is now authorized in 24 states. In 2021, President Biden signed a invoice making Juneteenth a federal vacation.

For individuals who don’t know, the Smithsonian studies that Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day when “some 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas. The military introduced that greater than 250,000 enslaved black individuals within the state had been free by the manager decree.” The chief decree refers back to the Emancipation Proclamation, which went into impact two years prior, however “couldn’t be applied in locations nonetheless below Accomplice management.”

Juneteenth is also called Freedom Day and Emancipation Day. Although America tends to place the 4th of July on a pedestal as America’s birthday and thus, the individuals’s Independence Day, many People weren’t free in 1776. Not even shut.


Our 4 kids are Black, and for a number of years now, we now have chosen to honor Juneteenth. They’ve attended a neighborhood Juneteenth pageant with meals, video games, actions, and leisure. Final 12 months, we determined to design and put on Juneteenth tees and put on them for the Juneteenth vacation. Different methods households could select to celebration is making a soul meals meal or patronizing a Black-owned restaurant. They could beautify with banners, balloons, and materials that includes the Juneteenth colours: pink, black, and inexperienced. Our household owns a number of books about Juneteenth that we show each June.  

Courtesy of Rachel Garlinghouse

We wish our youngsters to know complete American historical past within the methods we by no means obtained to. This implies — gasp! — altering custom. For us, the true day of the beginning of independence is Juneteenth, not July the 4th. Just some highly effective white males grew to become free in 1776. Freedom for ladies, the disabled, LGBTQIA, kids, and folks of colour would come a lot later — as in, we’re nonetheless combating for these freedoms at this time. Juneteenth was a begin for our youngsters, however there may be nonetheless a lot progress to be made. 

As dad and mom, we proceed to study and develop. As increasingly more true historical past turns into obtainable and circulated, we’re gaining the schooling that we by no means obtained. We hope that by evolving, we present our kids the significance of studying their historical past and celebrating their future, as a result of so many superb individuals went earlier than them … and dreamed of at this time.

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