Will Jones: What Juneteenth means to me

Will Jones: What Juneteenth means to me

DETROIT – As a person who is a descendant of enslaved people in the United States, Juneteenth is personal.

Juneteenth commemorates when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas learned of their freedom, which was more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Juneteenth became a federal holiday in June 2021, a year after the national reckoning on race following the murder of George Floyd. But a Texas woman by the name of Opal Lee is credited with helping make Juneteenth a national holiday.

In 2016, then 90-year-old Lee walked 1,400 miles from Fort Worth, Texas, to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness about Juneteenth. Lee was there when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth bill into law years later.

Opal Lee pauses as she gives a tour of her home Thursday, July 1, 2021, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

In 1980, Texas became the first state to recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday. Now in 2024, it’s the first year that Juneteenth is a state holiday in Michigan.

At least 28 other states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth as a public holiday.

What makes Juneteenth even more significant in my household is that during the Civil War, my great-great grandfather served in the 5th United States Colored Heavy Artillery. It was a Black regiment of the Union Army based in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

There were about 180,000 Black men like my great-great grandfather who made up the United States Colored Troops.

Even in uniform, they still faced many challenges solely based off their complexion. But they persevered like so many generations of enslaved people before them.

Although Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States, the fight for freedom was far from over for Black people.

We can’t change the nation’s past, but we all do have a role in the chapters to come. So, Juneteenth is just as much about reflecting on our country’s past as it is celebrating the possibilities of our future.

Happy Juneteenth!

About The Author


Juneteenth Today: Your Online Hub for the Latest News and Insights on Juneteenth

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No comments to show.