What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth, also known as Jubilee Day, is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. From its Galveston, Texas origin in 1865, the observance of June 19th as the African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond. Today, Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a day, a week, and in some areas a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics and family gatherings. It is a time for reflection and rejoicing. It is a time for assessment, self-improvement and for planning the future. Its growing popularity signifies a level of maturity and dignity in America long overdue. In cities across the country, people of all races, nationalities and religions are joining hands to truthfully acknowledge a period in our history that shaped and continues to influence our society today. Sensitized to the conditions and experiences of others, only then can we make significant and lasting improvements in our society.
Tonya Thames-Taylor is an Associate Professor of American History, founding director of the African American Studies Program, and member of the Executive Committee of the Frederick Douglass Institute at West Chester University in West Chester PA. She is a specialist in the 19th and 20th centuries. Her research focuses on gender, race, human rights, and Southern histories. She has received numerous fellowships and grants. She is a National Endowment for the Humanities(NEH) Summer Institute Fellow (Summer 2014, Jackson State University) and the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Recipient (2006—2008). She served as a Pennsylvania Live and Learn Scholar for the Pennsylvania Humanities Council. For more information on the Black jockeys of the Kentucky Derby that Dr. thames taylor discussed, click here.