This past weekend, with kindred spirits around the country, I observed Juneteenth Day, a wholly holy day for me.
Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1862 granted freedom to enslaved persons in regions controlled by Union forces, and although the eventual surrender of the Confederacy would end the widespread practice of slavery, news about the Proclamation spread unevenly to the enslaved. The Thirteenth Amendment legally abolished slavery in this country on December 6, 1865.
Texas, the last state to do so, announced the end of slavery within its borders on June 19, 1865, the date now commemorated as Juneteenth. Juneteenth is recognized in about half of the country’s states–including Pennsylvania–and is typically celebrated with the games, contests and joviality associated with most festivals. This year I chose to spend my Juneteenth days reflecting on, reading about, expressing appreciation for family, blood and fictive kin, and all unnamed and unknown who precede me.
The paths of my family’s exodus from slavery dot Georgia, Alabama, and Virginia. They are so heroically uncommon that many, many similar ones are documented by fictional and non-fictional accounts, a number of which are in our collection. Some to check out are:
Someone Knows My Name, Lawrence Hill.
Lest We Forget: The Passage From Africa to Slavery and Emancipation, Velma Maia Thomas.
The Slave Ship: A Human History, Marcus Rediker.
Mrs. Dred Scott: A Life on Slavery’s Frontier, Lea VanderVelde.