A Door to Liberation: Why Juneteenth Matters

Fractured or subjective freedom is an intoxicant for the haughty and an accelerant for the disenfranchised. Throughout American history, this truth has been a driving force that propelled ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

The colonists, toiling under the oppressive regime of the British Crown, eventually took matters into their own hands to enjoy freedom originating from the King of Kings, not from King George III. Americans came together after economic hardship to confront and defeat two massive threats to the United States and freedom around the world: fascism led by Nazi Germany and communism led by the Soviet Union.

Rightfully, we remember annually the sacrifices and accomplishments of our forefathers to create the platform that we stand on today as the beacon of freedom. We remember V-E Day, V-J Day, and Independence Day.

In these current times—when we must remember that America is truly the “Great Experiment” amidst diversity, turmoil, and civic evolution—celebrating the significance of Juneteenth is empowering and inspiring.

Celebrated on June 19th throughout America, Juneteenth denotes the day when the last Black slaves were informed in Galveston, Texas, that they were indeed freed. This holiday highlights the struggle and triumph over America’s Original Sin: the enslavement of Africans through a brutal form of chattel slavery unique in history, all during the formation of a new nation that sought to “…secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”

Juneteenth is a celebration that makes Independence Day a more fulfilled promise across America. The freedom extolled on July 4th, 1776, was robust, even if it took June 19th, 1865, to accentuate its fullness.

It is a reminder that freedom and prosperity are not guaranteed. It is a pivot point of American history that denotes responsibility for egregious wrongs and willingness to foster a deeper trust and partnership between all of us in this nation. It is a reminder that the harsh realities over the course of decades and centuries can shift towards justice within a moment of intentional movement towards what’s right. It is a watershed moment in a nation that shed so many tears dealing with prejudice that harmed the descendants of slaves as well as those crossing the Atlantic Ocean and southern border.

During this Civil Rights Movement of the 21st Century, it is vital to cling to examples of triumph for liberty that resonates across all factions of our nation. Women’s suffrage, celebrated for its centennial milestone just last year, reflected a democratic triumph that inspired millions to win access to the ballot box during the 1950s and 1960s. The legacy of education opportunity that sprouted from the effort to desegregate public schools has evolved into the fight for expanded school choice.

Just the same, Juneteenth is a reminder that joy comes after moments of sacrifice, division, and crisis. It is a shared thread within our American fabric that holds us together with a renewed hope for our civic aspirations. It is another springboard of inspiration to be courageous and historic with our actions during a time when we are called to do so.

The phrase, “…all men are created equal…” always applied to all of humankind, even if the application of such a tenet was truncated through human flaw during our early history. Each Independence Day reminds us that America is called to be the shining city on a hill, even as each Juneteenth reminds us of the steps we take on the road to remain that beacon standing tall on that hill.