You are here:

Juneteenth: Honoring the Past Informs Our Future

flag with navy blue curved top half and red bottom half with white star in middle

A Letter from Our President

Juneteenth holiday. Texas emancipated the enslaved on June 19, 1865, two and a half years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, when Union troops arrived in Galveston to let the enslaved know that they were free, starting the nation’s healing. It’s rarely taught. Rethinking our nation’s past helps us understand each other.

After independence, people and systems ensured that Blacks continued to work for plantation owners instead of owning land. Today’s wealth gaps are a result.

Today, several states have deleted American history and anti-racist training from public school curricula at a time when comprehending our past is vital to our future. Juneteenth reminds us that discussing our past strengthens and unifies us. It clarifies current and future difficulties and builds faith and accountability in our systems instead of spreading hostility and blaming.

Policies and investments must be based on historical conditions. Knowledge—not atonement—is accountability.

Accept reality. The Public Health Service and CDC studied hundreds of southern African American men with untreated syphilis from 1932 to 1972 in the Tuskegee Study. 40 years. Syphilis was deliberately infected and left untreated, even after penicillin became available to treat the disease. Cases like the Tuskegee Study, Henrietta Lacks and professional football “race-norming” demonstrate long-term exploitation of Black people that has generated a profound, permanent distrust and disparity in healthcare and science. Juneteenth is a great time to build trust in ourselves and others and exhibit our resilience.

Before the George Floyd tragedy and protests, police officers were frequently found “not guilty” for behaviors that Black people had observed for years in their own communities. Then, those behaviors were caught on film for the world to see.

Law enforcement is just one facet of 400 years of discrimination in healthcare, housing, employment, finance, and education. The 1992 Los Angeles Riots and the Tulsa Massacre, in which a white mob burned down Greenwood, a Black hamlet in Oklahoma, killing hundreds of Black business leaders and displacing thousands, are turning points in our history, across many cities.

Tolerance doesn’t condemn. It investigates how various institutions support repeated negative behavior and proposes ways to eliminate their restrictive residues. Juneteenth shows that studying history may strengthen us by revealing what we can achieve and putting current, often unpleasant realities into perspective.

History can inspire us and provide us with a perspective on contemporary, often harsh situations. It can change the narrative for entire communities.

Juneteenth, like conversations about the Tulsa Massacre and other historical events, unites Americans to resist racism and build a better nation.

Protean Gibril, President
AARCH Society