At a time when there is so much rewriting of American history, Juneteenth proves why history should be kept intact.
Officially declared a national holiday by Congress last year in the wake of George Floyd’s 2020 murder, the day marks the emancipation of black slaves by President Abraham Lincoln in January 1863. As we prepare to celebrate it for the first time as a nation on Monday, it feels as important as the Fourth of July.
In the face of all this erasure, Juneteenth actually embraces our ugly past and gives all Americans a reason to be proud. The Emancipation Proclamation declared freedom for 3.5 million slaves living in the secessionist South if they could escape their slave masters and the Confederacy (which most could not). Finally, in December 1865, following the North’s Civil War triumph over the South, slavery was declared unconstitutional and permanently eradicated.
While there is truth to some of these grievances, the left’s extreme positions leave no room for complexity, nuance and often historical fact. And this tide of anti-Americanism has been damaging to our nation: In 2001, 87% said they were very or extremely proud to be American; 69% say that now.
But Juneteenth, with its championing of American history rather than the simple cancellation of it, could help change this. It shows that, just as slavery is an indelible part of our nation’s past, so too is our commitment to reckoning with it. My children will grow up in a nation where Congress has codified the importance of African-American freedom.
Juneteenth is proof that America can make a right out of a historical wrong — even as there still remains work to do.
Much like our nation’s Independence Day, it signifies liberty and our ever continuing path toward creating “a more perfect Union,” just as our Declaration of Independence states. Nothing is more meaningful than that.