Why Juneteenth is for all Americans: NPR

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Why Juneteenth is for all Americans

Opal Lee, featured earlier this month, celebrates this week’s passage of legislation making Juneteenth a federal holiday. President Biden signed the bill into law on Thursday.

Amanda McCoy/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images


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Amanda McCoy/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Opal Lee, featured earlier this month, celebrates this week's passage of legislation making Juneteenth a federal holiday.  President Biden signed the bill into law on Thursday.

Opal Lee, featured earlier this month, celebrates this week’s passage of legislation making Juneteenth a federal holiday. President Biden signed the bill into law on Thursday.

Amanda McCoy/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

This essay was written by Michael Martin, Morning edition And First host

Confession: I had never heard of Juneteenth until I came to Washington, After college. A coworker and friend who was dating a guy from Texas told me about it. Even at the time, I thought it was a regional affair, like Mardi Gras – that is: not to be falsified, watered down or interpreted by people who are not in the know, if you understand what I mean.

You can see it. It commemorates the day federal troops arrived to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas, approximately two years after it was issued. But more broadly, it celebrates the end of slavery. In my opinion, this celebrates the beginning of true freedom because – as moral philosophers have long known – no one is free until everyone is free, because oppression ensnares the oppressor as well as the oppressed. Anyone who has ever been in a toxic relationship knows this.

That’s one reason why the beautiful Opal Lee, a Fort Worth native known as the grandmother of Juneteenth, I worked so hard and so long to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. A white mob burned down her family’s home in 1939. She became an educator and activist and saw the day become a federal holiday last year. She told her local station KTVT: “This is not a Texas thing or a Black thing. “It’s an American thing.”

Go party.

Juneteenth Stories You May Have Missed

In this June 17, 2020 photo, a statue depicts a man holding up the state law that made Juneteenth a holiday in Galveston, Texas.

In this June 17, 2020 photo, a statue depicts a man holding up the state law that made Juneteenth a holiday in Galveston, Texas.

David J. Phillip/AP


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David J. Phillip/AP

Today marks four years since Juneteenth became a federally recognized holiday. For families in Galveston, Texas, where the holiday originated, the celebrations have been a mainstay for generations. Here’s how residents will observe Juneteenth this year.

This week, activist Opal Lee received the keys to a new home built on the same land where her family’s home once stood. It has been more than eight decades since it was vandalized and destroyed. Trinity Habitat for Humanity, Texas Capital and HistoryMaker Homes partnered to build the house and donate it to Lee. (via KERA)

Athens, Georgia, held its first-ever annual Miss Juneteenth pageant this week. Seventeen young black women seduced the public with their talents, their evening dresses and their personality. Regan Jones, a 10-year-old with an impressive step routine, took home the crown. (via WUGA)

Boston Poet Laureate Porsha Olayiwola views Juneteenth as both a celebration and a reminder of oppression. She looks back on that day with WBUR’s Sharon Brody, shares some of her poems that resonate with holiday themes, and explains how poetry can help people learn and heal. (via WBUR)

This newsletter was published by Carole Ritchie.

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